Princeton Seminary Approves $27 Million in Reparations

Princeton Theological Seminary announced it will provide $27 million in scholarships and other initiatives as a form of reparations for its ties to slavery. It is the second seminary in the US to do so.

The announcement, made on October 18, came nearly a year after a two-year investigation uncovered the school’s deep connection to slavery. Following the initiation of its 2016 investigation, the seminary faced calls from its Association of Black Seminarians (ABS) to approve and distribute reparations, according to The Daily Princetonian.

In March, the ABS called for 15 percent of the seminary’s endowment to be used for reparations.

“The ABS calls for Princeton Theological Seminary to take responsibility for the wrongs documented in its report,” the petition said.

“Such responsibility entails restitution of the benefits received by the institution from the immoral extraction of wealth from the labor of enslaved Africans in the period of 1812-1861.”

Students renewed their pressure on the institute’s trustees to consider the petition’s measures earlier in October, The Daily Princetonian reported.

On October 18, the seminary announced a detailed plan to set aside $27.6 million from its $1 billion endowment for reparations. The plan extends to 2024, but the seminary said that it was committed to supporting continued action beyond that.

The plan will fund 30 new scholarships for the descendants of enslaved people, support the hiring of a full-time director for the Center for Black Church Studies, and will finance name changes for several buildings to highlight key African American figures.

“The report was an act of confession,” John White, the seminary’s dean of students and vice president of student relations, said in a statement. “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 New Jersey seminary is the second theological institution to fund reparations in the United States. The first was the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, which announced in September that it created a $1.7 million fund for reparations, The Washington Post reported.

The institution, which did not admit Black students until 1951, will allocate money to address the “particular needs” of descendants of enslaved people who worked at the seminary and to establish programs that “promote justice and inclusion.” The fund will also be used to promote African American alumni and clergy’s work within the Episcopal Church.

Princeton Theological Seminary’s announcement was welcomed as “a good start” by ABS leader Nicholas Young, but more could be done. Young has said that the plan released by officials fell short of what his group had demanded. He noted that the $27 million figure was below the seminary’s own findings on what should be set aside.

Young also suggests that the seminary needs to do more to address how the school’s faculty and leaders “used theology to justify the institution of slavery.” He added to The Daily Princetonian that ABS will pursue formal negotiations with the seminary in the coming weeks to address how to move forward.

“I cannot say that, as an institution, that the seminary has failed to try to repent,” said Young. “All I can say is that I want it to try harder.”

An estimated 10 percent of Princeton Theological Seminary’s 360 students are Black.

The seminary is just the latest educational institute to announce its plans for reparations in the US and abroad. In August, the University of Glasgow signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with The University of the West Indies (UWI) in which it committed £20 million ($24 million) as “reparative justice.”

The funds are expected to establish the Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research, based in Glasgow and the West Indies. The center will host events, coordinate academic collaborations, fund research, and help raise awareness about the history of slavery.

The historic agreement came on the heels of a two-year study that revealed the University of Glasgow directly benefited from the slave trade in Africa and the Caribbean in the 18th and 19th centuries. The report, which was released in September 2018, showed the university made nearly £200 million ($241 million) during the slave trade, when adjusted to current currency value.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.