In the spring of 2016, President Craig Barnes commissioned a committee of faculty and administrators to examine the institution’s historic connections to slavery. This committee studied everything from the demographics of the student body to activities of alumni. They examined the relationship of the Seminary’s founders to slavery, the economic base of the facilities, and the participation of faculty and board members in the American Colonization Society. The historical audit report, which is the product of more than two years of research, uncovers contradictions and complexities in the practices, attitudes, and theological convictions of the Seminary’s early faculty, students, and donors. It clearly depicts both profound moral failings and courageous acts of faithfulness to the Gospel.
This research provides a critical reckoning with our past, and was the basis for a year-long conversation involving the entire Seminary community about the ongoing legacy of racism that is rooted in this history. As a school related to the church, Princeton Seminary has a responsibility to reckon with its history in a theological framework, making confession and repentance when necessary, recognizing the human failures and frailties that damage our relationship with God and the world God so loves. Confession of sin and repentance have always been vital to the health of a spiritual community.
On October 18, 2019, our Board of Trustees unanimously adopted a multi-year plan to repent for the Seminary’s relationship to slavery and to commit to tangible action to shape our community’s future in meaningful, lasting ways.