Oct 22, 2019

Princeton Seminary to pay $27 million in reparations

Someone giving a practice sermon at the Princeton Theological Seminary. Photo: Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Princeton Theological Seminary will pay $27.6 millions in reparations as an act of "repentance" after acknowledging the school historically benefited from America's slave economy, the university announced in its campus magazine.

Why it matters: The decision adds to a trend of America's oldest educational institutions admitting ties to slavery and approving reparation payments for the descendants of enslaved Africans.

Background: The Seminary clarified that it neither owned slaves, nor used slave labor to construct its campus, per a historical audit. However, it invested in Southern banks and its donors benefited from slavery. Founding faculty members also used slave labor and supporting sending free black men and women to Liberia.

Along with the Princeton Seminary, Georgetown University and the Virginia Theological Seminary have moved to pay reparations as well.

Why now: Princeton Seminary's approval of a multi-year action plan comes after a report was published in Oct. 2018 that served as a "confession," according to John White, the Seminary's dean of students and vice president of student relations.

What's next: The plan will roll out immediately. Efforts include:

  • 30 new scholarships and the addition of five doctoral fellowships for students who descended from enslaved African people.
  • Hiring a director for the Center for Black Church Studies.
  • Renaming the library for Theodore Sedgwick Wright, the first African American to attend Princeton Seminary.

"To sustain this programming in perpetuity, $27.6 million will be reserved in the endowment," according to a Seminary news release.

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