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This Week in Princeton History for September 10-16

In this week’s installment of our returning series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the president breaks with tradition at Opening Exercises, a member of the Class of 1922 expresses disapproval of the building of Palmer Square, and more.

September 10, 1873—The School of Science opens to candidates for the Bachelor of Science degree. Seven students are admitted.

The School of Science, 1876. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box SP6, Image No. 1510.

September 12, 1794—A detachment of 200 New Jersey cavalry on their way to Pennsylvania to aid in suppressing the Whiskey Rebellion stop by “Prospect,” a farm that will one day become part of the campus of Princeton University, to forage for their horses.

September 13, 1992—Princeton president Harold Shapiro surprisingly breaks with tradition and yields to the new Dean of the Graduate School, Albert Raboteau, for the opening address at Opening Exercises. Raboteau, the first African American to hold the position, speaks on the importance of minority inclusion in “Fragile Towers.” “Princeton has need of the presence and the perspective of those who have been historically defined as the ‘others’ and who are still too few among us…the challenge of black history, ethnic history, and women’s history, is not simply to furnish the additional drops necessary to continue the whitewash of our national experience.”

Albert Raboteau speaks in Princeton University Chapel for Opening Exercises, September 13, 1992. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 183. For more excerpts from his address, see the inside back cover of the October 28, 1992 issue of the Princeton Alumni Weekly.

September 16, 1936—In the New Republic, T. S. Matthews ’22 writes with scathing sarcasm about the plans to build what will later be known as Palmer Square across Nassau Street from Princeton University. “Old buildings…are all very well, but they have an untidy way of not being historically correct, not quite the thing. Much better to have buildings that look old but are new.” Matthews goes on to suggest that Princeton might expand beyond buildings to rewrite its demographic history, forcing its large population of Italian immigrants to adopt English names and re-enslaving African Americans. (In order to build Palmer Square, a longstanding African American residential neighborhood must be demolished.)

Before the construction of Palmer Square, the Nassau Inn had stood on Nassau Street since 1769. Part of the section of Nassau Street carved out by the new development is shown here in this undated postcard (Historical Postcard Collection (AC045), Box 3). Baker Street, part of an African American neighborhood, was also removed to make way for Palmer Square.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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