As part of the Campus Iconography Committee (CIC), the Princeton History Working Group (PHWG) works to create visual cues on campus that tell nuanced interpretations of Princeton University’s history. PHWG’s work brings to light some of the University’s lesser-known histories in order to build a more complete narrative of Princeton’s past.
One of PHWG’s goals is to introduce these lesser-known stories to students early on in their Princeton experience. Reintroducing complexity and nuance regarding race, gender and other identities into the narrative history of Princeton can help Princeton become a more inclusive and welcoming place for members of the University community.
PHWG is a multiconstituency group composed of students, staff and faculty, and collaborates with campus and community partners. PHWG initiatives take a variety of forms, including exhibits, historical markers, walking tours and orientation programming.
Please offer your feedback on our history projects.
“(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.
A series of unique sidewalk stickers corresponding to each of the individual stops on the tours in (In)Visible Princeton is placed around campus. To activate a tour stop from its sticker, use your phone's camera to scan the QR code, or type into your browser the "bit.ly" short URL written out on the sticker. Tour-goers can elect to complete an entire walking tour at once, or to launch the content for individual stops as they come across the corresponding stickers. The stickers resemble the examples at right. Look for them around campus! Click here to see a full map of sticker locations
We hope you will share your candid feedback. We will incorporate feedback into improving these tours, as well as future tours in the series.
View a map of accessible routes on campus
Stories of African American Life at Princeton
Stories of Asians and Asian Americans at Princeton
Stories of "Firsts" at Princeton
Stories of Traditions at Princeton
Stories of Women at Princeton
James Johnson Exhibit
Open to the public
Frist Campus Center, East TV Lounge
James “Jimmy” Collins Johnson escaped from slavery in Maryland in 1839 and came to Princeton. He worked as a janitor on campus for four years until a student and former neighbor recognized him and turned him in. Although he was brought to trial under the Fugitive Slave Act and ordered to be returned to his former owner, a local woman purchased his freedom for about $500, which Johnson subsequently repaid. Over the next 60 years, he worked on campus in various capacities; most notably, in the memory of students, as the only vendor to sell apples, candy, peanuts, lemonade and other snacks on campus.
The exhibit’s location in Princeton’s well-trafficked student center brings his story to all members of the University community and its visitors.
At least 16 enslaved men, women, and children lived and worked in Maclean House when it served as the President's House (1756 to 1878). They were the personal property of the Presbyterian ministers who served as presidents of the University. A memorial plaque installed on the front lawn of Maclean House in spring 2019 commemorates their lives.
The memorial plaque lists the names of the 16 people who were known to have lived in Maclean House. It also identifies the University presidents by whom they were owned, many of whose names feature prominently in American history.
Previously, "Impressions of Liberty", a sculpture by Titus Kaphar, sat on the front lawn of Maclean House. The sculpture memorialized the lives of the six unnamed men, women, and children who were sold in an estate sale from that location in 1766. The piece is now a part of the Princeton University Art Museum collection.