Princeton Theological Seminary sets aside $27.6m for reparations as repentance for its ties with slavery

Mohammed Awal October 23, 2019
Princeton Theological Seminary. Photo Credit: Djkeddie / Wikimedia Commons

 Princeton Theological Seminary has earmarked $27.6 million for a reparations plan to “repent” for its past ties to slavery.

The money will be used to fund scholarships and provide cross-cultural changes to its curriculum, the New Jersey seminary said in an official statement.

The reparations initiative will include 30 new scholarships and five doctoral fellowships for students who are descendants of slaves or from underrepresented groups, according to reports. 

The seminary said the scholarships are valued at the cost of tuition, which is $18,000, plus an additional $15,000.

The decision to set aside the aforementioned amount for reparations followed an audit which revealed that the founding members of the faculty used slave labor at some point in their lives and that the seminary “benefited from the slave economy, both through investments in Southern banks in the mid-19th century and from donors who profited from slavery.”

“The Seminary’s ties to slavery are a part of our story,” Princeton Seminary president M. Craig Barnes said.

“It is important to acknowledge that our founders were entangled with slavery and could not envision a fully integrated society.

“We did not want to shy away from the uncomfortable part of our history and the difficult conversations that revealing the truth would produce,” Barnes added.

The reparations plan goes into effect immediately and will continue through 2024.

Although the seminary, founded in 1812, did not own slaves, the historical audit uncovered it benefited from the slave economy, both through investments in Southern banks in the mid-19th century and from donors who profited from slavery.

Also, founding faculty and leaders used slave labor at some point in their lives. Several of the first professors and board members were deeply involved in the American Colonization Society, which advocated sending free blacks to Liberia.

Earlier this year, a group of Black seminarians demanded reparations after the audit report came public.

The Association of Black Seminarians launched an online petition in March calling on the institution to make “amends” by allocating $5.3 million, or 15 percent of the seminary’s current endowment, to fund tuition grants for Black students and to create a Black Church Studies program.

“The report was an act of confession,” said John White, dean of students and vice president of student relations. “These responses are intended as acts of repentance that will lead to lasting impact within our community. This is the beginning of the process of repair that will be ongoing.”

The Princeton Theological Seminary’s effort to correct the injustices done to blacks during the slave trade followed a similar move by Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS).

In a statement, VTS announced the setting aside of $1.7 million as an endowment fund for slavery reparations.

Established in 1823, the institution was founded by slave owners, including Francis Scott Key, a staunch anti-abolitionist and writer of the national anthem, according to The Washington Post.

Besides being built with the help of and also periodically relying on slave labor, VTS was also segregated after slavery had been abolished. The school opened its doors to black students in 1951.

“Virginia Theological Seminary recognizes that enslaved persons worked on the campus and that even after slavery ended, VTS participated in segregation. VTS recognizes that we must start to repair the material consequences of our sin in the past,” the statement read.

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: October 23, 2019


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