July 16, 2020
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College uncovers evidence of former slavery on property; students demand change

By Camille Furst
Editor-in-Chief

Controversy broke out in the College community when President Kathryn Foster informed students that the campus is built on the former William Green slavery plantation in a mass email on June 19, mentioning that a group of faculty members have been researching its history. 

The news came as a shock to some, as many were previously unaware of the plantation from the 18th and 19th centuries — and, in the wake of the recent protests involving the Black Lives Matter movement, left students at the College calling for change.

Foster also announced plans for the future regarding the discovery: a symposium on slavery in conjunction with Princeton University, a spring 2021 course on New Jersey slavery and a pursuit of “grants and other opportunities to expand this work.” 

The William Green House, which was home to a family who owned a slave plantation, still remains on the College’s property (tcnj.edu).

But some students feel that this is not enough. In response to Foster’s announcement, rising junior nursing major Caitlyne Gomez began a petition to rename Green Field and demolish the William Green House, located near Townhouses South.

But Gomez, like many other students, was unaware that the plantation existed at all.

“When I read Dr. Foster’s email about the William Green plantation, I was outraged,” she said in an interview with The Signal. “I was shocked that in my two years at TCNJ I have never heard of this before.”

After speaking with staff and students, Gomez said she changed the direction of the petition’s goals. Instead of demolishing the William Green House, Gomez believes it would be better suited to be transformed into an African American history museum. As of June 23, the petition garnered over 2,000 signatures.

According to an update on the petition, Gomez said that Foster reached out to her and asked to discuss the recent events surrounding the William Green House. She told the Signal that first, she’ll be meeting with George Leader, one of the faculty members involved in researching the plantation’s history. Once she gathers more information on the faculty members’ work, she’ll be meeting with President Foster to discuss next steps.

Along with Gomez, alumna Jessica Roman (‘17) was also shocked to discover that the College was built on a former plantation, and called for change in response.

“As a TCNJ alum, I am so embarrassed that we have multiple spots on campus named after a slave owner. I am doubly shocked that part of campus was once a plantation that used slave labor/exploited Black people. The TCNJ community should absolutely learn about its past, but that learning does NOT need to include paying homage to slave owners and racists,” Roman said. “We’ve managed to change the title of one building named after a staunch segregationist in recent years. Let’s make some changes again.”

Editor’s Note: Luke Sacks, the head media relations officer at the College, clarified that “James M. Green Hall on campus is named for a former president of the College from 1889-1917, who is not related to the namesake of the plantation house.”

6 Comments on College uncovers evidence of former slavery on property; students demand change

  1. The student claims to be “outraged”. Get the smelling salts. This generation of students needs to grow up. The world is not a black and white Netflix drama. The College should be educating students about the complex context of 18th and 19th century life in America. The thought of tearing this building down because it offends her sensibilities is absurd. Please, where are the faculty historians, architects, art historians and engineers. Much can be learned from this modest structure!

    This reminds me of the over reaction of the College to the changing of the name of Loser Hall. In its folly, the college changed the name of the building to an avowed racist (William Trent) who is famous for intentionally infecting the local native Americans with smallpox. What a namesake for Trenton Hall. Oh no… another embarrassment for TCNJ.

  2. Anger at the killing of George Floyd has spurred use­ful re­flec-tion about race and per­haps some im­por­tant po­lice re­form. But the po­lit­i­cal and cul­tural forces have trans­formed in re­cent weeks into some­thing far less healthy—a fe­ro­cious cam­paign of po­lit­i­cal con­formity sweep­ing across Amer­i­can artis­tic, ed­u­ca­tional, busi­ness and en­ter­tain­ment in­sti­tu­tions. Make it stop

  3. Some light research: Judge William Green lived in Ewing from 1700-1722 when he died. He was a Hunterdon County judge. I’m not sure if he founded the plantation or if it was his descendants, which included other William Green’s.
    Slavery is very very bad. Slavery in 1700’s was accepted in society, which was bad. Is it right to judge people who lived centuries ago by today’s societal standards?
    George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, James Madison, Patrick Henry all owned slaves. Should their names be wiped from society and history?
    Unfortunately, this country has a long and ugly history of slavery. There is a lot of land in this country that was at one point slave-owner land. None of this should cause “outrage.” It is historical fact. Furthermore, there are historical landmarks across the world that were built by slaves that do not cause “outrage.” Rome, the pyramids, etc. There is no reason to be outraged that TCNJ is built on what was once plantation land.
    We have many more issues that deserve our attention than wiping out slaveowners names from our history. Black Lives Matter, and we need to move forward with that movement on society rather than looking back and trying to rewrite history under today’s standards

  4. I’m embarrassed by my college for all this virtue signaling. If the Green Farmhouse is demolished, I’m no longer donating to the alumni association. Fellow alums – speak up and speak out about this! We cannot erase history and sanitize the past. Academics should know this and be the first to step in. Sadly, they are not.

  5. Where is Dr. Gitenstein when we need her! The current President is a follower, not a leader. We need to start a group to RESTORE TCNJ!

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