Over the past decade, Princetonians have renewed calls for the University community to create a campus culture that serves all of its students and alumni.

She Roars: Celebrating Women at Princeton alumni conference. From left to right: Ivy Thomas McKinney ’77, Evora Thomas ’74 and Daphne Thomas Jones ’77; first 3 sisters at Princeton. (Office of Communications)

These initiatives have led to significant changes and a reconsideration of Princeton’s stance on institutional injustices—historical and current. In the summer of 2020, the University’s Board of Trustees voted to remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from the School of Public and International Affairs.

Image: Students and alumni protest the dedication of the Wilson Marker, intended to tell a more complete history of Woodrow Wilson’s legacy. (Daily Princetonian)

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For the first time, Princeton has named a new residential college after a Black woman, Mellody Hobson ’91. Hobson College, which will open in 2026, will be built on the site of what was formerly Wilson College.

Image: Mellody Hobson ’91 speaking at Alumni Day in 2019. Below, Hobson and her mother at Commencement in 1991. (Sameer A. Khan / Princeton University)

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Hobson and her mother at Commencement

“My hope is that my name will remind future generations of students—especially those who are Black and brown and the ‘firsts’ in their families—that they too belong.”

—MELLODY HOBSON ’91

Alumni Kwanza Jones ’93 and José E. Feliciano ’94 made the largest gift by Black and Latino donors in Princeton’s history, allowing the University to expand undergraduate enrollment by 10% to students of all backgrounds. Two new residential buildings will be named in their honor.

Image: Kwanza Jones ’93 and José E. Feliciano ’94 in front of FitzRandolph Gate during 2019 Reunions. (Kwanza Jones and José E. Feliciano / Princeton University)
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Recent alumni conferences have celebrated the achievements and contributions of different minority groups. In 2019, 1400 guests attended Thrive: Empowering and Celebrating Princeton’s Black Alumni, featuring presentations, discussion groups, and exhibitions.

Image: Princeton alumni at the “Thrive” conference in 2019. (Sameer A. Khan / Princeton Thrive)
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Princeton hosted We Flourish for Asian and Asian American alumni in 2015. ¡Adelante Tigres! in 2017 was Princeton’s first gathering for Latinx alumni.

Image: Sonia Sotomayor ’76 and Margarita Rosa ’74 relive Princeton memories at ¡Adelante Tigres! (Office of Communications)
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Image: Princeton alumni take a selfie in East Pyne Courtyard during an Asian night market at We Flourish. (Office of Communications)

In late 2020, Wendy Schmidt and her husband, Eric Schmidt, a 1976 alumnus, endowed the University’s first professorship of Indigenous Studies. Additionally, a fund was established to support research and teaching related to Indigenous groups.

Image: Princeton Indigenous Advocacy Coalition leaders Gabriel Duguay ’22 and Jessica Lambert ’22 in front of Whig Hall. (Ethan Sterenfeld / Princeton Alumni Weekly)
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I think that it’s really essential that voices are represented and that the University is supporting indigenous academics and supporting our growth. It’s really important to me as a Native student to have professors that are indigenous I can look up to and I can turn to and I can talk to about these things that other professors can’t really talk to me about.

Nicholas Johnson ’20 became the valedictorian of Princeton’s Class of 2020, making him the first Black valedictorian in the University’s 274-year history.

Image: 2020 valedictorian Nicholas Johnson ’20 stands in front of Nassau Hall. (Nicholas Johnson /  Philadelphia Inquirer)

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“I think it’s very empowering...specifically in the context of Princeton’s history. The first nine presidents of Princeton were slave owners. Several professors were as well, and slaves have previously been auctioned on Princeton’s property. So I think given that historical context, those historical beginnings, to now have had a Black valedictorian is a very significant event. However, at the same time, the fact that it has taken 274 years is alarming and just goes to show how much work still needs to be done.”

—NICHOLAS JOHNSON ’20

Recent initiatives have also delved into lesser known histories of institutional racism and discrimination. The Princeton & Slavery Project examines the University’s historical ties to slavery. The project features 80 articles, video documentaries, interactive maps, and several hundred primary source documents.

Image: Impressions of Liberty, a sculpture by American artist Titus Kaphar, was installed outside of Maclean House in conjunction with the Princeton & Slavery Project. (Princeton University Art Museum)
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The Princeton LGBTQIA Oral History Project was launched in the summer of 2017. Undergraduate and graduate students interviewed LGBTQIA alumni, staff, and faculty to learn about their struggles and achievements at Princeton. Over 140 alumni have been interviewed, ranging from the Class of 1955 to the Class of 2015.

Image: LGBT Center peer educators pose for a photo in Prospect Garden. (Isometric Studio)

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In 2018, Carl A. Fields Center interns highlighted the experiences of more than 30 alumni of color who graduated from Princeton University between 1990 and 2018 through the Brave Voices Project. The project aimed to uplift and share the voices of minority alumni who have impacted Princeton’s campus in ordinary and extraordinary ways.

Image: Amma Prempeh ’19, photographed at Princeton's radio station, WPRB. (Isometric Studio)
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Which recent or current initiatives around inclusion and belonging do you find effective?

What is your hope for future generations of Princetonians?

What have other institutions done that could serve as a model for Princeton?

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Image: Wilglory Tanjong ’18 standing in front of Nassau Hall, holding her senior thesis, “The Case of the Cameroons: Building a Nation from the Remnants of Colonialism.” (Office of Communications)

Let’s move the conversation forward.

To Be Known and Heard aims to continue and expand the conversation around racism at Princeton. This is not a complete recounting, but rather shows critical examples to bring underrepresented histories of racism and anti-racism to light. We encourage you to learn more and invite you to contribute your voice.

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