Nicholas Johnson became the first black valedictorian in Princeton University’s 274-year history, an achievement that the 22-year-old called “very empowering, especially given its historical ties to the institution of slavery.” Johnson, who majored in operations research and financial engineering, told The New York Times that Princeton had “very much been a leader amongst its peer institutions.” He also noted that the school, which has mostly white students, has been “very critical and cognizant about its ties to slavery.”
“They’ve taken very deliberate steps to reconcile things,” he added. Princeton is among dozens of universities, including Harvard and Brown, that have begun to face their historical connections to slavery in recent years. Black students make up roughly eight percent of Princeton’s undergraduates, according to the Times. “I hope this achievement serves as inspiration to black students coming up behind me,” Johnson said.