This Week in Princeton History for December 31-January 6

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the construction of Lake Carnegie begins, the faculty approve a program in Women’s Studies, and more.

January 2, 1905—Work begins clearing 170 acres of heavily wooded land for the construction of Lake Carnegie.

Laborers and horses who cleared land for the construction of Lake Carnegie, ca. 1905. Historical Photograph Collection, Lake Carnegie Construction Photographs Series (AC065), Box 11.

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This Week in Princeton History for May 22-28

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, protesters are arrested at Nassau Hall, a professor urges Princetonians to buy Liberty Loan bonds, and more.

May 22, 1949—Nassau Hall’s flag flies at half mast as a tribute to James V. Forrestal, a member of the Class of 1915 and the nation’s first Secretary of Defense, who died after jumping out a window on the sixteenth floor of Bethesda Naval Hospital on this date.

James Forrestal, ca. 1940s. Official U.S. Navy Photo. James V. Forrestal Papers (MC051), Box 188.

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This Week in Princeton History for April 10-16

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Chaim Potok kicks off Jewish Heritage Week, a sit in ends, and more.

April 10, 1994—McCosh 50 and two overflow auditoriums fill to hear Chaim Potok’s address to kick off Princeton’s celebration of Jewish Heritage Week.

Chaim Potok, ca. 1994. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 225.

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This Week in Princeton History for April 13-19

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Princetonians win the equivalent of six medals at the first modern Olympic Games, Albert Einstein dies, and more.

April 13, 1994—David Remnick ’81 wins the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction for his book, Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire.

April 14, 1978—Students begin a 27-hour occupation of Nassau Hall to protest Princeton University’s economic ties to apartheid-era South Africa.

Nassau_Hall_Protest

Nassau Hall protest, April 1978, Princeton Alumni Weekly Photograph Collection, AC126, Box 33.

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Princeton and Apartheid: The 1978 Nassau Hall Sit-In

Princeton di-vest!
Oh yeah

Just like the rest!
Oh yeah

And if you don’t!
Oh yeah

We will not rest!
Oh yeah

We gonna fight
And fight

And keep on fightin’ some more
Princeton di-vest!

(Student protest chant, quoted in Princeton Alumni Weekly 24 April 1978)

Protest_Signs_April_4

Protest Signs, April 1978, Princeton Alumni Weekly Photograph Collection (AC126), Box 33.

Following the recent “Coming Back: Reconnecting Princeton’s Black Alumni” conference, we wanted to take a closer look an issue that involved Princeton’s Association of Black Collegians: policies on South African investment during apartheid. Relatively recent events in the University’s history often challenge researchers, since many of our archival records related to the history of Princeton are initially restricted (most commonly for a period of 40 years). Yet we can still learn a great deal about how Princetonians addressed apartheid’s moral questions through our open collections.

Princeton first articulated its stand on this issue in 1969, partly in response to a February 26 student rally sponsored by a coalition of black and white student groups at Princeton, The United Front on South Africa. They asked Princeton to divest stock in 39 companies. On March 4, University President Robert F. Goheen publicly outlined University policy on investment in companies doing business in South Africa and presented six steps Princeton was willing to take in response to these concerns. Although Goheen promised that Princeton would let these companies know their feelings about apartheid, he said that Princeton should not fully divest. In his statement, Goheen reasoned that these companies “derive on average less than one percent of their sales and profits from southern Africa” and that divesting would not have a “substantial prospect” of meaningful impact on apartheid. Meanwhile, he argued, Princeton would suffer the loss of $3.5 million in income, which would hinder its ability to carry out its educational mission. Far from satisfying the United Front, Princeton’s stated policies provoked the Association of Black Collegians to stage a sit-in at New South Hall, which then held the University’s administrative offices. Students for a Democratic Society, a predominantly white student group, also participated. (See Office of the Provost Records (AC195), Box 23, Folder 3).

Princeton_Out_of_South_Africa_Crowd

Cannon Green protest, April 1978, Princeton Alumni Weekly Photograph Collection (AC126), Box 33.

Such protests became relatively common throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and in January 1977, a new student group, the People’s Front for the Liberation of South Africa, took the lead in organizing them. After 32 consecutive days of picketing in front of Nassau Hall in March and April 1978, the students entered the building and stayed there. Some students kept vigil outside, while the others organized themselves into “cells” of 4-5 students inside. Spending the night under a half-moon while the bronze tigers flanking the steps held candles in their paws that cast somber shadows on their faces, one student said, “Somehow…I don’t think this building will ever seem the same to any one of us again.” (Princeton Alumni Weekly, 24 April 1978)

Protest_Nassau_Hall_Snow

Nassau Hall protest, ca. 1978, Princeton Alumni Weekly Photograph Collection (AC126), Box 33.

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