Human embryonic stem cells (ESCs [hESCs]) proliferate as colonies wherein individual cells are strongly adhered to one another. This architecture is linked to hESC self-renewal, pluripotency, and survival and depends on epithelial cadherin (E-cadherin), NMMIIA (nonmuscle myosin IIA), and p120-catenin. E-cadherin and p120-catenin work within a positive feedback loop that promotes localized accumulation of E-cadherin at intercellular junctions. NMMIIA stabilizes p120-catenin protein and controls E-cadherin-mediated intercellular adhesion. Perturbations of this signaling network disrupt colony formation, destabilize the transcriptional regulatory circuitry for pluripotency, and impair long-term survival of hESCs. Furthermore, depletion of E-cadherin markedly reduces the efficiency of reprogramming of human somatic cells to an ESC-like state. The feedback regulation and mechanical-biochemical integration provide mechanistic insights for the regulation of intercellular adhesion and cellular architecture in hESCs during long-term self-renewal. Our findings also contribute to the understanding of microenvironmental regulation of hESC identity and somatic reprogramming.