Last weekend’s “Walking Histories: Race and Protest at Princeton and in Trenton” involved a series of performative walks across campus that “[explored] how issues of race and protest, in Trenton and on campus, are imprinted on Princeton’s buildings and grounds," according to the event's website.
The tour premiered at the Festival of the Arts celebration that commemorated the opening of the new Lewis Center for the Arts complex, and was planned as part of an ongoing collaboration between students, history professor Alison Isenberg, and Aaron Landsman, a visiting associate professor in theater and the Lewis Center for the Arts. The collaboration represents one of several collaborative, interdisciplinary projects that have recently touched on issues of race here at the University; these projects have included The Trenton Project, directed by filmmaker and Wilson School lecturer Purcell Carson, and the courses URB 202: Documentary Film and the City and AMS 395: Performing the City, which are studying and interpreting the unrest in Trenton that followed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.
The performance walks, which were written and led by students, took audiences back to the 1960s to experience campus through the eyes of 40 high school students, three quarters of them African American, who attended the Princeton Summer Studies Program during the summer of 1964. At the time, the program, which sought to prepare public high school students for entry into college, was one of the first of its kind in the nation.
The tours focused on the story of Harlan B. Joseph, one of the PSSP students who lived on campus that summer, far from his hometown of Trenton. Four years later, Joseph, then a sophomore at Lincoln University, died in Trenton shortly after Dr. King’s funeral when he was shot by police.
Next semester, Landsman and Isenberg will be working with undergraduates in AMS 395 in order to create additional campus walks related to the histories of race and protest. Planning is also underway for more live performances of the “Walking Histories” tour, with dates and times to be determined. Complete information about the student writers, researchers, and performers will be posted online soon.
For those interested in “Walking Histories” and the PSSP experience, a separate, student-composed audio version of last weekend’s tour is available online.