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FALL 2017:  The 1960s & The Footsteps of the Past

Historian Alison Isenberg and filmmaker Purcell Carson have been collaborating  for the past two years to explore the 1960s in Trenton and the so-called "riots" of 1968.  

That work led to the student films of Fall 2017.  Thanks to the Princeton Histories Fund, The 250th Fund for Innovation in Undergraduate Education, the Community-Based Learning Initiative and wonderful support on campus and in Trenton, our team has worked with students and interns in local archives and libraries, interviewed dozens of Trentonians and collected hundreds of documents.  Telling the history of a city – even just telling what happened one night in one city and why – leads to countless stories, amazing people, interesting places—each worthy of being at the center of a film.


The students’ charge this semester was to sift through these stories, find one particular thread that captured their interest, pull on it, and see where it leads.  The results are below.  We invite you to watch, share, and send us your comments.

This project, like all of the work of The Trenton Project, could not happen without the generosity and stories of Trentonians.  Please take a look at our full credits.


Community volunteers and organizers trace the shifting fortunes of Trenton's Coalport neighborhood, exploring civic and personal responses to urban renewal, both in the 1960s and today. 


Directed by Beatrice Ferguson  (2018, 11 min.)

In 1967, a remarkable family, the Cogsvilles, chose to make their home in Trenton, New Jersey. This film tells the story of that family, exploring their long and varied history of civic work within the city of Trenton, and, through the eyes of their daughter, asking what it means to carry on a family's legacy of service and dedication, over 50 years later. 


Directed by Nick Chen  (2018, 9 min.)

Larry and Fern Spruill, husband and wife co-founders of the Committed and Faithful Princetonians youth program, reflect on their time growing up in Princeton, NJ, during the 1960s, and how their community has changed since then. Larry speaks about his painful experiences with law enforcement as a kid, and makes it his mission to change young peoples' relationship with police in Princeton today.


Directed by Tom Hoopes (2018, 8 min.)

Butter Allen, his colleagues, and volunteers share their experiences at Mercer Street Friends, examining the link between Trenton's Quaker history and the spirit of stewardship kept alive through their organization today.


Directed by Nisha Lakhiani  (2018, 7 min.)

This in-depth look into the history of Trenton's Puerto Rican community beginning in the 1960s, explores how Puerto Rican Trentonians find unity and hope in present day through their culture.

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