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Did You Know? . . . Betsey Stockton

If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God. -2 Corinthians 5:17,18a 

Betsey Stockton, born in Princeton in 1798, was a slave of a prominent family in the history of our state and nation. The Stockton family included a signer of The Declaration of Independence, a senator, the owners of Morven (formerly the Governor’s mansion and now a museum), and much more. Betsey’s mother was a slave of Robert Stockton. Robert was an attorney who owned large tracts of land on what is now Constitution Hill.

Betsey was described as “an extraordinary girl who believed in an extraordinary God.” When her owner’s daughter, Elizabeth Stockton, was married to Rev. Ashbel Green, Robert “gave” Betsey to him as a domestic servant. Rev. Green was president of the College of New Jersey (Princeton University). 

Recognizing Betsey’s innate intelligence, the Greens enabled her to attend university classes and granted her freedom in 1816. Under the American Board of Commissions for Foreign Missions, she went to Hawaii in 1824, “neither as an equal nor as a servant, but as an humble Christian friend.” The group’s focus was teaching the island’s elite children. Betsey petitioned the Board to teach the children of the poorest commoners. By the end of their mission in 1826, over 2000 of the poorest children had attended Betsey’s separate school. She was our first unmarried woman missionary!

Until 1865 Betsey taught in African American schools in Philadelphia and Princeton, tutored PTS students, and was a co-founder of Princeton’s First Presbyterian Church of Color (now WSPC).