Princeton and Slavery Project to Share Findings Through Arts, Academic Collaborations

Findings of the Princeton and Slavery Project will be revealed this fall through academic and arts programming.

Scholars at Princeton University plan to reveal findings of the Princeton and Slavery Project this fall through an academic symposium, digital exhibits, an art installation, and public programming. As part of the Princeton and Slavery Project’s community programs, Princeton’s McCarter Theatre has commissioned seven playwrights–MacArthur Genius Fellow Branden Jacobs-Jenkins–to write original, 10-minute plays based on the archival record of Princeton’s history related to slavery. McCarter’s Artistic Director and Resident Playwright Emily Mann also will contribute one short play.

During the past four years, Princeton Professor of History Martha A. Sandweiss, University Archivist Daniel Linke, and a team of undergraduates and doctoral history students have been investigating the University’s links to the institution of slavery through the Princeton and Slavery Project. A news release stated, “The University’s first nine presidents owned slaves, though not all did during their tenures as president. And while students did not bring slaves to campus, a significant number of students during the University’s first 120 years came from the South and many held anti-abolitionist views.”

According to, Sandweiss said she chose to incorporate theater into the project because she and her colleagues “wanted to bring our findings to a broad public in ways that extend well beyond the conventional academic symposium. The historical records sometimes fall flat, remaining silent when we so want to hear our characters’ voices. This is where the playwrights’ imaginations come in. I see our work together as a true collaboration, leading to a richer and more imaginative, but historically grounded, understanding of the past.”