July 24, 2019

Council Recognizes Satterfield For Her Work as a Historian

By Anne Levin

Sixth-generation Princetonian and historian Shirley Satterfield was honored with an award of recognition at the Monday, July 22 meeting of Princeton Council. A standing-room-only crowd at Witherspoon Hall gave Satterfield, whose knowledge of local history and activism has made her something of a local legend, an ovation as she accepted her award and expressed gratitude for the honor.

“I’m humbled and very thankful for this recognition,” Satterfield said after Council member Eve Niedergang presented her with the award. “Everything I do is a labor of love,” she added, quoting from a sermon by the Rev. Lukata A. Mjumbe, her pastor at Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church.

Satterfield paid tribute to numerous people and organizations with whom she has been involved during her ongoing career as a teacher, guidance counselor, researcher, historian, and tour guide. She asked members of each group to stand. Among them: the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church, the Historical Society of Princeton, the former Princeton Borough Council, the current Princeton Council, Not in Our Town, Princeton’s Historical Commission, the committee to establish the Witherspoon-Jackson Historic District, the Paul Robeson House, the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice, and the Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society. She also singled out a group of her childhood friends.

Born in Philadelphia and raised in Princeton, Satterfield witnessed the town’s racial evolution firsthand. She attended the Witherspoon School for Colored Children, when segregation still existed in Princeton, and later transferred to Nassau Street School in 1947 when integration began. She graduated from Princeton High School and Bennett College, and later earned a master’s degree in guidance and counseling at Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey). She taught elementary and high school, and served as a guidance counselor at her alma mater, Princeton High School.

Satterfield established the Albert E. Hinds Memorial Walking Tour to increase awareness of African American history in Princeton, and to commemorate Hinds, her friend and fellow history enthusiast. Hinds Plaza is named for him. Satterfield was instrumental in the designation of the Witherspoon-Jackson Historic District, and is the president of the Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society, which will place 26 plaques around the neighborhood’s Heritage Trail. The first four are to be unveiled on August 10.

From her acceptance speech, it is clear that Satterfield has no plans on slowing down. “I will continue to serve this community, because this is my labor of love,” she concluded, earning herself another standing ovation.