PRINCETON seminary students asking for reparations for school’s role in slavery
Princeton Theological Seminary last year released a report describing its founders’ and early faculty’s ties to slavery. Now, some of its students want the school to take it a step further and provide reparations as financial restitution for its role in the slave trade.
A group of black seminarians have collected more than 400 signatures in an online petition calling on the New Jersey school to “make amends” by setting aside $5.3 million annually – or 15 percent of what the seminary uses from the school’s endowment for its operating expenses – to fund tuition grants for black students and establish a Black Church Studies program.
A progressive seminary like Princeton could be a pioneer by distributing reparations, said Justin Henderson, president of the Association of Black Seminarians, the group behind the petition. The school has confessed and repented for the “sin” of its role in slavery, but “repentance doesn’t end with confession,” said Henderson, who will finish his master of divinity studies in May.
“Restitution is evidence of the repentance.,” he said. “This is how we know the person has repented.”
The idea of reparations was popularized by Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 2014 cover story in The Atlantic, “The Case for Reparations.” It has resurfaced in recent months as an issue in the 2020 presidential race, finding support among Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. They have not revealed specific plans, but those Democratic candidates signaled a shift from other leaders, such as former president Barack Obama, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who is running again for the Democratic Party nominee, and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who declined to support reparations in the past.