Princeton University’s commitment to fostering a community where all can thrive is underpinned by ongoing efforts to tell a more complete narrative of the University's past and present.
The activities highlighted below comprise a sample of these efforts. Please visit the About page for more information.
Native American and Indigenous Peoples
Princeton seeks to build relationships with Native American and Indigenous communities through academic pursuits, partnerships, historical recognitions, community service and enrollment efforts. These communities include the Lenni-Lenape people, who consider the land on which the University stands part of their ancient homeland.
The Princeton & Slavery Project
The Princeton & Slavery Project investigates the University’s role in the institution of slavery. It explores the slave-holding practices of Princeton’s early trustees and faculty members, considers the impact of donations derived from the profits of slave labor, and looks at the broader culture of slavery in the state of New Jersey, which did not fully abolish slavery until 1865. It also documents the southern origins of many Princeton students during the ante-bellum period and considers how the presence of these southern students shaped campus conversations about politics and race.
“Double Sights” is an art installation examining the complicated legacy of Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924), Class of 1879, whose actions and attitudes have been both commended and decried from his lifetime to the present day. Wilson’s career included service as the 13th president of Princeton University, 34th governor of New Jersey, and 28th president of the United States, and he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in establishing the League of Nations, an organization for international cooperation founded after World War I. Yet he was also a racist who used his position of power to promote segregation, including overtly segregating the federal government and arguing that students of color should not be admitted to Princeton. Student engagement, including a protest sit-in by members of the Black Justice League, spurred a University-wide examination of Wilson beginning in 2015. The result of those examinations is “Double Sights.” The extraordinary events of 2020 caused the Trustees to revisit questions around the impact of Wilson’s views and the implications of his actions. In June 2020, the University removed his name from the adjacent Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.
“(In)Visible Princeton” is a series of themed historical walking tours of Princeton University’s campus. Tours are web-based and mobile friendly, and are accessible both on campus and off, making them available to the widest possible audience. Most tours consist of 10 to 15 stops, each of which includes interpretive text and supplemental media, such as images, audio, and video, to help explain the significance of each event, location, or person. Tours include “Women at Princeton,” “African-American Life at Princeton,” “Stories of Asians and Asian Americans at Princeton,” and “Princeton Firsts.”
Impressions of Liberty
In collaboration with the Princeton & Slavery Project, the Princeton University Art Museum commissioned American Artist Titus Kaphar to create Impressions of Liberty, installed November 6th through December 18th, 2017 at Maclean House, the historical residence of its subjects, before entering the Museum’s collections. Kaphar’s work responds to archival records unearthed by the project, documenting an auction of six enslaved people as part of the estate of Samuel Finley, fifth president of Princeton University. Featuring portraits of an African American man, woman, and child etched in glass, framing a monumental bust of Finley carved into wood as a sculptural absence, the sculpture raises questions about who is remembered and who is invisible in our accounts of history, both written and visual.
Princeton Histories Fund
The Princeton Histories Fund, which operated from 2016 to 2019, was designed to support the exploration of “aspects of Princeton’s history that have been forgotten, overlooked, subordinated, or suppressed.” The goal of this initiative was to encourage a deeper and more nuanced engagement with our institutional history and to explore the legacies of that history at Princeton and beyond. Examples of funded projects include the Princeton LGBTQIA Oral History Project and production of a series of plays based on material from the Princeton and Slavery Project at the McCarter Theatre.
Sis! Boom! Ah!
During the 2019-20 academic year, the walls of Frist Campus Center's dining area were decorated to honor 50 years of undergraduate coeducation, with timelines of significant female firsts, vintage photos of determined young faces and inspirational quotations from trailblazing alumnae.
To Be Known and Heard
The To Be Known and Heard website represents the efforts of a number of individuals, offices, and academic entities on campus. While not comprehensive, the site is designed to introduce students to the long and complex history of racial exclusion and integration at Princeton. The website invites the viewer to participate in the conversation by contributing their own stories in an effort to work together for a culture of openness and accountability. The website is an online gallery and does not, and is not intended to, represent an official institutional view or perspective.