This is just a beginning…
The Princeton Theological Seminary is pledging to spend nearly $28 million on reparations over its ties to slavery, an effort believed to be one of the largest of its kind.
Under the plan, which was announced last week and will be implemented over the course of the next five years, the private school of theology in New Jersey will offer 30 new scholarships and five doctoral fellowships for descendants of people who were enslaved or for others from underrepresented groups.
The seminary will make changes to its curriculum, hire more scholars to study the legacy of slavery and rename campus spaces in honor of prominent African-Americans, among other initiatives.
The program will cost more than $1 million a year, the seminary said, and $27.6 million will be set aside in the endowment to sustain it.
“These responses are intended as acts of repentance that will lead to lasting impact within our community,” said John White, dean of students and vice president of student relations for the seminary, in a news release. “This is the beginning of the process of repair that will be ongoing.”
The actions are a result of two-year audit conducted by faculty and administrators that detailed the Princeton seminary’s relationship to slavery.
The report found that the seminary, which is independent of Princeton University, did not own slaves and that its buildings were not constructed with slave labor.
But the seminary did receive financial contributions from Southern sources, including slaveowners and congregations with ties to slavery. And for a time, a large portion of the seminary’s endowment was connected to Southern banks that were financing the expansion of slavery in the Southwest.
The research found that several of the seminary’s founders and early leaders used slave labor, despite speaking out against slavery. Additionally, many seminary faculty, board members and alumni were involved in the American Colonization Society, an organization that argued against immediate emancipation and advocated sending formerly enslaved people back to Africa.
“The Seminary’s ties to slavery are a part of our story,” said M. Craig Barnes, the seminary’s president, in a statement. “It is important to acknowledge that our founders were entangled with slavery and could not envision a fully integrated society.”