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Princeton Theological Seminary ‘repents for its ties to slavery’ by paying $27MILLION in reparations

Princeton Theological Seminary ‘repents for its ties to slavery’ by paying $27MILLION in reparations, including 30 new scholarships for descendants of slaves

  • Presbyterian institution announced initiative last week after public pressure 
  • Seminary last year released report following two-year historical audit 
  • Report found that university donors benefited significantly from slave trade 
  • Schools and colleges have been forced to confront their past ties to slavery 

The Princeton Theological Seminary says it will set aside some $27million to fund scholarships as well as ‘cross-cultural’ changes to its curriculum as a way of ‘repenting for its past ties to slavery,’ the school announced.

The theological institution’s board of trustees unanimously endorsed a reparations plan last week.

The initiative came about after students pressured the Presbyterian school to offer reparations.

In October 2018, the seminary published a report that included the findings of a two-year historical audit examining its connection to the African slave trade.

The report found that the school did not own slaves and the school’s building was not built by slave labor.

But the seminary, which was founded in 1812, benefited financially from donations given by slaveholders.

The Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey, announced a $27million initiative that will fund scholarships for the descendants of slaves

The Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey, announced a $27million initiative that will fund scholarships for the descendants of slaves

The money donated by slave owners also generated significant interest.

The report found that as much as 15 percent of the seminary’s total revenue before the Civil War could be attributed to slave holding donors and the interest income their donations yielded.

The seminary, which is not affiliated with Princeton University, also found that between 30 to 40 per cent of the seminary’s revenue was rooted in financial donations from individuals whose wealth was in some measure derived from the slave trade.

The report also found that founding faculty members and leaders used slave labor at some point in their lives.

‘The report was an act of confession,’ John White, the seminary’s dean of students and vice president of student relations said.

‘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 seminary plans to fund 30 new scholarships for ‘descendants of slaves or [those] from underrepresented groups’ that will cover the tuition at the school as well as $15,000 in other expenses.

Undergraduate students wishing to attend the seminary pay $18,000 a year in tuition.

While the seminary found that it did not own slaves and that slaves did not build the school, its donors benefited financially from the slave trade and its administrators did, in fact, own slaves. The photo above, taken circa 1910, shows three Abyssinian slaves in iron collars and chains

While the seminary found that it did not own slaves and that slaves did not build the school, its donors benefited financially from the slave trade and its administrators did, in fact, own slaves. The photo above, taken circa 1910, shows three Abyssinian slaves in iron collars and chains

The plan also calls for the hiring of a full-time director of the Center for Black Church Studies, adding a ‘cross-cultural component’ to the seminary curriculum, and naming the library after the first African-American to attend the seminary.

‘The Seminary’s ties to slavery are a part of our story. It is important to acknowledge that our founders were entangled with slavery and could not envision a fully integrated society,’ said Princeton Seminary President M. Craig Barnes.

‘We are committed to telling the truth.

‘We did not want to shy away from the uncomfortable part of our history and the difficult conversations that revealing the truth would produce.’

A number of colleges and universities across the country have been examining their ties to slavery.

Researchers from the University of Virginia published a book this past summer which found that a 10-year-old enslaved girl was brutally beaten at a boarding house near the school.

Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, found ‘there is no question’ slavery played a role in fueling the school’s growth.

Slaves were used in the construction of parts of the Virginia Theological Seminary, according to researchers.

Emory University issued a public apology in 2011 after it was learned that a top administrator once owned an enslaved woman.

The University of Georgia commissioned a study which found that slaves cleaned buildings, kept student warm, and did other tasks for their owners during the early days of the school’s existence in the mid-19th century. 

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