Thanks to the PAW for providing much needed coverage to the highly important – and timely – April 21 scholarly symposium “John Witherspoon in Historical Context.” This symposium provided important new information about Witherspoon’s relation to slavery. Additionally, I found the symposium an example of Princeton at its best in its earnest and forthright evaluation of certain controversial aspects of Witherspoon’s life and legacy.
Moreover, the entire video record of the Witherspoon symposium should be provided on the Princeton & Slavery Project’s website to accompany its video coverage of the 2017 symposium celebrating the commencement of the project. The University’s April 12 email announcing this symposium plainly stated that video of the symposium would be made available online for benefit of those who did not attend. Much to my concern, the University has instead decided to withhold these videos from the Princeton community. I have asked President Eisgruber to make these important videos promptly available to all who are interested in them.
I note further that the Princeton & Slavery Project, which describes itself as “an ongoing research project that will continue to grow, as users contribute new documents and additional research,” has not even acknowledged the important new information about Witherspoon’s relation to slavery published in January by Witherspoon scholar Kevin DeYoung (himself one of the presenters at the April 21 symposium). I am deeply troubled that the project refuses even to acknowledge manifest problems in its “John Witherspoon” essay and the public’s reliance on this faulty essay. Attempts to get these issues addressed still await any response. (I specifically refer the interested reader to the March 1, 2023, open letter to President Eisgruber by Princetonians for Free Speech and my own later open letter to the director of the Princeton & Slavery Project.)
The Princeton & Slavery Project instead proceeds like a ghost ship — the Flying Dutchman of Princeton. Its works are plainly seen, but repeated calls to the project all go unanswered. Far worse, it continues to haunt Princeton with what I believe is profound misinformation. Is there left on board even a single soul to guide this lost ship?