The Princeton Theological Seminary is the latest educational institution to set aside funds to pay reparations for its historical ties to slavery.
The seminary’s more than $25 million fund is thought to be the most any college has pledged to pay through reparations, said Anne Stewart, vice president of external relations, NJ.com reports.
President M. Craig Barnes said in a statement Friday (October 18) that the seminary is “committed to telling the truth,” and called the payments an act of repentance even though the seminary itself never enslaved Africans, NJ.com reports.
“The Seminary’s ties to slavery are a part of our story,” Barnes said. “It is important to acknowledge that our founders were entangled with slavery and could not envision a fully integrated society.”
The seminary was founded in 1812 and benefited from the slave economy through investments in Southern banks and from donors who profited from slavery.
According to the seminary, the founding faculty and leaders used slave labor during their lifetime and some advocated for sending free Black men and women to Liberia, NJ.com reports.
“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 said.
The payments for the $27.6 million amount will include offering 30 new scholarships, valued at the cost of tuition plus $15,000, for students who are descendants from slaves or from underrepresented groups, the seminary said, NJ.com reports.
Furthermore, the seminary, which is not affiliated with Princeton University, will also designate five doctoral fellowships for students who are descendants from slaves and hire a full-time director for the Center for Black Church Studies, among other initiatives, they said.
The seminary’s $1 billion endowment will be used to sustain the initiatives aimed at generational change, which was led by Black seminarians who launched a petition calling for reparations.
“We are taking tangible action to write a new chapter in our story,” Barnes said.
Stewart added, saying, “The religious context had everything to do with it. Repentance is not just about talk. It’s about action.”
The Princeton Seminary’s actions follow other educational institutions that are also acknowledging their ties to slavery to pay reparations.
Georgetown University students voted earlier this year to raise their own tuition to pay reparations to the descendants of 272 enslaved Africans who were sold by Jesuits who ran the university, NJ.com reports.
In September, the Virginia Theological Seminary also announced its offer of $1.7 million in reparations to slave descendants.
In a statement on their website, the seminary’s dean and president, Rev. Ian S. Markham, wrote: “As we seek to mark the Seminary’s milestone of 200 years, we do so conscious that our past is a mixture of sin as well as grace. This is the Seminary recognizing that along with repentance for past sins, there is also a need for action.”
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