Alumni: The Range of Opinion
and Action on Slavery
Another facet of the Seminary’s historical relationship to slavery is the attitudes and actions of those who studied at Princeton Seminary. The issue of slavery was important enough in the first half of the nineteenth century in the United States that the Seminary’s alumni would have had to confront it, no matter where they served. As Daved Anthony Schmidt has documented, the largest number of students in the period 1812-1865 had come from the mid- Atlantic area (53 percent) and gone on to serve in the mid-Atlantic for much of their careers. However a smaller proportion of the students had come from the South or the Border States (20 percent) and a significant number of graduates would go on to serve some portion of their ministry in these areas (27 percent).42 In addition, as the century moved on, more students would move into the newer areas in the West as these areas were settled, not only the old Northwest Territory, which was at least legally supposed to be free of slavery, but also areas such as Missouri where slavery was permitted. The range of opinion held and action taken by these graduates on the slavery issue was varied.
Perhaps the best known stories of Seminary alumni regarding the slavery issue are those of two of its graduates connected to the abolitionist cause. Theodore Sedgwick Wright (Class of 1828) claims a special place in Princeton Seminary history as the first African-American to attend and graduate from the Seminary. He attended from 1825 through 1828. The Board of Director’s Minute Book specifically stipulates that his race should be no bar to his admission to the Seminary (he had already been turned down by a number of institutions to which he had applied): “Dr. McAuley, on behalf of the Presbytery of Albany, applied to the Board to have Theodore Wright, a fine young man of color, admitted into the Seminary. Whereupon, resolved that his color shall form no obstacle in the way of his reception.”43 Records seem to indicate that he was among the very first African-Americans to receive any kind of formal higher education in North America.
Wright was named for Theodore Sedgwick (1746-1813), a Massachusetts attorney who successfully argued a 1781 case concerning two escaped slaves who gained their freedom in Massachusetts by claiming that the state’s 1780 constitution had declared that “all men are born free and equal.” This name thus gives some idea of the sentiments of the family into which Theodore Sedgwick Wright was born. He is reported to have attended the Free African School in New York City, which had been set up by the New York Manumission Society, of which Samuel Miller had been a founding member. During his middler year at Princeton Seminary, Wright became a subscription agent for the Freedom’s Journal, an early African-American newspaper edited by Samuel Cornish, the pastor of the First Colored Presbyterian Church in New York City. At first Samuel Miller and others associated with the Seminary became subscribers. However, when the paper began an attack on the American Colonization Society, with which members of the Princeton Seminary faculty as well as prominent Princeton townsfolk were involved, this began to cause problems. In 1827, a junior editor of the paper printed the contents of a letter written by Samuel Miller, which Miller had expected would be kept confidential, and Miller responded by canceling his subscription to the paper and forbidding its presence on the Seminary campus on the grounds that it had impugned the motives and vilified the characters of persons associated with the work of the Colonization Society.
Wright was ordained by the Presbytery of Albany on February 5, 1829. He was named pastor of the First Colored Presbyterian Church of New York City and served the congregation until his death in 1847. By all reports his pastorate was a very successful one, his congregation rapidly growing until they had to find a new meeting place and eventually becoming the second largest African-American church in New York City. He and his congregation were active in the Underground Railroad, helping escaping slaves in their travels from the American South to freedom in Canada. In addition, Wright served as an agent of the New England Anti-Slavery Society and worked with other anti-slavery organizations, traveling and lecturing in the cause along with such other well-known African-American abolitionists as Frederick Douglass. He also wrote for William Lloyd Garrison’s anti-slavery newspaper, the Liberator. In 1833, he became one of the founders of the American Anti-Slavery Society, serving on its executive committee and later helping to found the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. He was chairman of the New York Vigilance Committee, which worked to prevent the kidnapping of free African Americans who would then be sold into slavery in the South. He was also vice president of the Phoenix Society, an organization promoting education and vocational training for African Americans.
Despite the altercation over the Freedom’s Journal, Wright appears to have kept contact with his Seminary professors and continued on good terms with them over the years. In 1836, seven years after completing his theological studies, Wright was back on the campus for a meeting of the “Literary Society of the Alumni of Nassau Hall.” Although this was a program of the alumni of Princeton College, the event took place in the Seminary chapel. The event was packed, but extra benches were brought in and Wright was able to take a seat about ten feet from the door. Suddenly someone cried out, “Out with the n***,” and Wright was seized by the collar and kicked by a Princeton College student. Although Wright did not try to defend himself, one of the Princeton Seminary students came to his aid. The college student turned out to be from South Carolina, and Princeton University records indicate that he did not complete his studies at Princeton, possibly being expelled for his actions at this meeting.44
This was not the only time Wright suffered because of his race. Much more serious was the death of his first wife. Traveling by steamer to Boston in the winter, they were compelled to stand outside on the hurricane deck in inclement weather. Wright’s wife was frail, and Wright offered to pay any money if they would just allow her to stand in the kitchen or pantry, but this was refused since she was African-American. He wrapped his coat around her and put her against a chimney to keep her warm, but she contracted a severe cold and died shortly thereafter. 45 Wright also complained that the Presbyterian church did not adequately support ministry to African-Americans and that African-American members of the Presbytery were not accorded the same status as their white brethren, but he went faithfully on with his work. By the time of his death in 1847, Wright was so well known and his work so well appreciated that his funeral procession through the streets of New York contained an estimated 6,000 people.46
The second well-known Princeton Seminary graduate connected with the cause of abolition was Elijah Parish Lovejoy (Class of 1834). Lovejoy was born in Maine and attended the school that today is known as Colby College. After graduation he travelled west to St. Louis, where he began a newspaper and ran a school. Sensing a call to ministry, he came to Princeton Seminary in 1832. After ordination he returned to St. Louis, where he resumed his newspaper work along with his work as a pastor. Among other topics, he wrote articles for his newspaper concerning abolition and the mistreatment of African-Americans. These writings stirred up local resentment, and several times his newspaper office was vandalized. Eventually he decided to relocate his offices to Alton, Illinois, across the Mississippi River, since Illinois was nominally a “free” state. However, pro-slavery forces were strong in Alton as well, and his press was again attacked and destroyed.
When a new press was sent down the river from Cincinnati for Lovejoy, he and some friends stored it temporarily in a warehouse near the river and decided to spend the night guarding it. A mob gathered on the night of November 7, 1837, and demanded that it be turned over to them. If not, the mob threatened to burn down the warehouse. As Lovejoy and several colleagues stepped forward to defend their press, Lovejoy was shot five times and killed. The mob then seized the press, breaking it up and throwing the pieces in the river.
Lovejoy became one of the early martyrs of the abolition movement. His death made a profound impression on the national consciousness and stirred new interest in the anti-slavery cause and in defense of freedom of the press. Memorial services were held across the nation, including one organized by Theodore Wright at his church in New York City. Lovejoy’s brothers, Owen and Joseph, wrote a memoir of his life, a copy of which was presented to the Princeton Seminary library by the American Anti-Slavery Society when it was published in 1838. In more recent years, new accounts of the story of Elijah Parish Lovejoy have continued to appear (including even a recent one in comic-book form). A PBS-style documentary was made for television, portions of which were shot on the Princeton Seminary campus, and a commemorative plaque is located on the porch of the Mackay Center at Princeton Seminary. An award for courageous journalism named after him was established in 1952 at Colby College and continues to be given out annually.47
A somewhat less-known figure was Albert Barnes (Class of 1823). Barnes was one of the most vocal Presbyterian pastors in the anti-slavery camp. He served for over forty years as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia. He was a noted preacher and author of a series of popular biblical commentaries. He made an exhaustive study of the passages in the Bible related to slavery, and he concluded that whatever the Bible might say about slavery in ancient Israel or in the Roman Empire in the time of the apostles, slavery as practiced in the nineteenth century in North America could not simply be characterized as an abuse of an otherwise neutral system, but was completely “contrary to the spirit of the Christian religion” and that “the fair influence of the Christian religion would everywhere abolish slavery.” He recommended that Christian churches should follow the example of the Society of Friends (Quakers) and cease all connection with slavery. If that were done, he was convinced, the force of public opinion would be such that it could no longer stand.48
Another lesser known Princeton Seminary alumnus who took up the abolitionist cause was John Finley Crowe (Class of 1816). Crowe was born in Tennessee, grew up in Missouri, and did his college studies in Lexington, Kentucky. Following his studies at the Seminary, he returned to Kentucky as a pastor of two small congregations and also founded an academy. In addition to his white students, he took up instructional work in the African-American community and earned local opposition for this. No one would lend him the use of a building for the purpose. In May of 1822 he began publishing a newspaper, The Abolition Intelligencer and Missionary Magazine, which ran for about a year. It was one of the earliest publications of its kind in the country but earned him further rejection from the local populace. In his diary he wrote that he was willing “to suffer persecution and reproach, the loss of friends and property, if he might only be instrumental in doing something for the amelioration of the poor slave.” When he could no longer get his paper printed and had received threats to himself and his family, he finally accepted a call to pastor a congregation in Hanover, Indiana. In Hanover he again started a school which was incorporated in 1829 and became Hanover College in 1833, the first church- related college in Indiana. He served on the Board of Trustees of the college until his death in 1860 at age 72. An early memoir and some correspondence from John Finley Crowe are held at the Hanover College archives and show his ongoing contact with Princeton Seminary and its professors over the years. His correspondence and surviving speeches reflect his lifelong concern with the slavery issue, as well as with the condition of Native Americans and, in later years, with the colonization movement in Liberia. As one of the pioneer Presbyterian ministers in southern Indiana, he helped organize the Synod of Indiana in 1826, which sent repeated overtures on the question of slavery to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church.49
John Montieth (Class of 1816) was also active in the anti-slavery movement. While at Princeton Seminary he lived with Archibald Alexander as a tutor to two of Alexander’s sons. He was the first Presbyterian minister to reach Michigan. In 1817, he preached the first English sermon there and established the first Protestant congregation in Detroit. He apparently fostered good ecumenical relations, as the first service was actually held in the Roman Catholic church building. He also helped establish the first university in the territory (later to become the University of Michigan), serving as its first president, and he founded the first public library in Michigan. In 1821, he moved to Hamilton, New York, to teach at Hamilton College, followed by a second teaching stint in Germantown, Pennsylvania. In 1831, he moved to Elyria, Ohio, where he served until 1845. He was a pioneer in the anti-slavery cause in the Western Reserve, near the shores of Lake Erie, and operated a station on the Underground Railroad in the region. At one point he narrowly escaped being tarred and feathered by a pro-slavery mob (in northern Ohio, a supposedly slave-free area), and another time his daughter remembered him coming home with his horse’s mane and tail completely sheared off. His friends in Michigan recalled him to that area between 1845 and 1855, but he returned to Elyria in 1859 to continue his teaching and anti-slavery work, dying there in 1868.50
Special Collections, Princeton Theological Seminary Library.
A classmate of John Montieth, Jeremiah Chamberlain (Class of 1817), also had a pioneering role in higher education. Although less vocal about his beliefs regarding slavery, he nevertheless ended up paying for them with his life. Born in Pennsylvania and educated at Dickinson College, Chamberlain’s mother had made a vow at the time of his birth to dedicate him to the work of the church. After finishing his program at Princeton Seminary, he accepted a missionary appointment to travel through western Pennsylvania and then down the Ohio River to St. Louis and on down the Mississippi, stopping at towns between Natchez and New Orleans, and finally ending up in Mobile, Alabama, where he was the first Protestant minister ever to hold a service, using his silk hat as a pulpit desk on which to rest his sermon notes. He returned to Bedford, Pennsylvania, where he served a congregation and founded an academy in 1818. In 1822, he was called to Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, serving as president of the institution at age 27. In 1826, he was called to Jackson, Louisiana, to head a college there, but the support was not what had been expected, and he resigned to start his own academy there in 1828. In 1830, he worked together with the Presbyterian Church officials to establish what became Oakland College in Mississippi, about 40 miles from Natchez. The school flourished under his leadership for the next 20 years and at its founding was the only church-related college southwest of Tennessee.
Although Chamberlain’s own sympathies were for ending slavery, his position depended upon working amicably with slaveholding neighbors and supporters. In the same year he founded Oakland College, he co-founded the Mississippi Colonization Society, dedicated to encouraging the manumission of slaves for resettlement in Liberia. The first classes at Oakland were held in a home that was the private residence of the wife of a slave trader, and land and early endowments for the college came from local plantation owners. By the 1850s there were tensions in the area on political issues, including slavery and states’ rights, and Senator Jefferson Davis, an opponent of the Compromise of 1850, lost in his bid to become governor of Mississippi. On the evening of September 5, 1851, Chamberlain was stabbed to death in front of his own home, while his wife, several of his children, and his son-in-law looked on. The murderer rode away and hid for several days after the killing but himself was found dead about a week later, presumably from suicide. The reason for the murder was not made fully clear by the official proceedings, but contemporary reports suggest that the murderer had been a Jefferson Davis supporter, had been drinking, and was concerned about pro-Union and anti-slavery sentiments being propagated at the college. It is interesting to note that despite Jeremiah Chamberlain’s concerns about slavery, the county slave schedule for 1850 shows him as owning three young slaves himself, ages 24, 17, and 15.
akland College closed during the Civil War, and the property was bought by the state after the war. Congress had required states with segregated educational systems to establish black land grant colleges if the state wished to qualify for gaining land grant benefits. The former Oakland College, a school originally set up for white students, became the first land grant college for African-Americans, Alcorn College. In 1974 it became Alcorn University.51
While some alumni of Princeton Seminary did become active in the anti-slavery movement, many who were opposed in principle to slavery as practiced in North America before the Civil War were also opposed to the immediate abolitionist stance of Douglass and Garrison. They believed that freeing slaves without adequate preparation for citizenship would create serious social and economic disruption.
A very common position among Presbyterian ministers of the antebellum period, including Princeton Seminary graduates, was to affirm the value of ultimate emancipation, while in the meanwhile working for voluntary manumissions, an amelioration of the system of slavery while it lasted, and the education of free African-Americans and of slaves and their children. A number of graduates of Princeton Seminary were involved, at least for a portion of their ministry, as missionaries to the slaves and to freedmen in the American South. Others served with sabbath schools in the North, giving basic literacy education and religious instruction, and also provided other services for African-American Presbyterian congregations.
An interesting case was that of Charles Colcock Jones (Class of 1830). He was born the son of a plantation owner on the Georgia coast and became a substantial slaveholder in his own right. When he was seventeen he made a profession of faith. Deciding to enter the ministry, he went to Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and Andover Seminary, completing his theological education at Princeton Seminary in 1830. While in Massachusetts he became very concerned about the family plantation and the morality of owning slaves. During his studies in Princeton, he wrote to his fiancé about his interest in carrying on religious instruction among slaves. Following graduation from Princeton Seminary, he accepted a position at the First Presbyterian Church of Savannah, where he organized an Association for Religious Instruction of the Negroes in Liberty County. In 1833, he took up took up missionary work among slaves in Liberty County, Georgia, as his major responsibility. With the exception of a short period when he served as professor of church history at Columbia Seminary, the missionary work engaged his attention from this time until 1848. After another short period as professor of church history, he served as the Secretary of the Board of Missions of the Presbyterian Church from 1850 until 1853, then returned to the family plantations in Liberty County.52
Jones placed much emphasis on visiting with the slaves on the plantations and arranging meetings for worship and instruction. He did not always find the task easy. Once, preaching to the slaves from the Epistle of Philemon on the duty of obedience, and condemning the practice of running away, he lost his audience, half of them simply walking away. Some declared that there was no such epistle in the Bible. Others declared “that it was not the Gospel.” Jones quietly re-evaluated his approach and but kept on with his work, learning how best to present the gospel to the slaves while not at the same time openly questioning the institution of slavery.53
Clearly his position as a slave owner interested in sharing the gospel with the slaves sometimes caused him to do much reflection about the task. Unable to find a suitable catechism, for example, he decided to write his own in phrasing he thought would communicate better with the slaves than any he could find. He also urged slave owners to better treatment of their slaves, including better physical treatment. He published his ideas on religious instruction for slaves in a volume called The Religious Instruction of the Negroes in the Southern States in 1842 and a further volume, Suggestions on the Religious Instruction of Negroes in the Southern States in 1847. In 1861, before a General Assembly of the Southern Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Georgia, he gave an address on the subject. His story has proved of interest to more recent writers. Besides academic papers and dissertations, literary critic Robert Mason Myers published a large collection of Jones family letters, The Children of Pride, which won a National Book Award in 1973, and historian Erskine Clarke’s Dwelling Place: A Plantation Epic, also based on the Jones family correspondence, won a Bancroft Prize in 2006.
John Miller Dickey (Class of 1827) spent time as a young minister in missionary work in southern Georgia and Florida. According to his nineteenth-century biographer he “always felt a profound interest in the African race, and was a zealous and efficient friend to a multitude of colored young men struggling for an education.”54 Returning to his native Pennsylvania he was involved in the recovery of free-born African-Americans who had been illegally kidnapped by slave hunters and sold into slavery in the South.
John Miller Dickey also developed a concern for starting a school for African-Americans who desired a higher education but found it hard to be accepted at the existing schools, and he was instrumental in founding Ashmun Institute, which today is Lincoln University. Canvassing for support, he received a commitment of $50,000 from Cortlandt van Rensselaer (Class of 1833), who himself had spent time as a missionary to slaves in Virginia in 1833-1835. He also gathered promise of support from other sources. Land was purchased near Oxford, Pennsylvania, and an institute for the higher education of African-Americans was chartered in 1854. The Presbyterian Board of Education provided a salary for the first professor, and the school opened its doors in 1856. Cortlandt van Rensselaer gave the opening address. Originally named Ashmun Institute, the name of the school was changed to Lincoln University after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. It was the first degree-granting historically African-American institution in North America, and its notable alumni include Langston Hughes and Thurgood Marshall. John Miller Dickey remained president of the Board of Trustees of Lincoln University from its founding until his death in 1878.55
Lincoln University continued to draw support from persons connected with Princeton Seminary for many years. Graduates of Princeton Seminary would regularly take positions on the teaching faculty, and Seminary faculty and board members were involved with fundraising for the school. A handbill for a post-Civil War fundraising drive for the University bears the names of Charles Hodge, Alexander McGill, W. Henry Green, James Moffatt, and C. Wistar Hodge, all members of the Seminary faculty, along with the names of nine members of the Princeton College faculty and the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Princeton.
As mentioned, Cortlandt van Rensselaer, was an early and generous supporter of what became Lincoln University. His father was one of the wealthiest men in upstate New York and his mother was a daughter of William Paterson, a signer of the U.S. Constitution, a governor of New Jersey, and an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. After graduating from Yale in 1827, he studied law for three years and was admitted to the bar of New York State, but then chose to devote himself to the Christian ministry. He studied at Princeton Seminary for his first two years and completed his studies at Union Seminary in Virginia. There the situation of the African-American slaves deeply impacted him. Upon graduation he accepted the invitation of a well-known plantation owner to come and live on the plantation and work among the slaves. His work was educational, as well as providing religious instruction, but soon raised opposition from other planters in the area, and he was forced to leave Virginia and return to the North. After a short time serving congregations in New Jersey and Washington, D.C., he was invited by the Princeton Seminary Board of Directors to travel the country to raise funds for the Seminary and following that assignment spent many years as corresponding secretary for the Presbyterian Board of Education, raising funds to support ministerial education in general. In addition to his address at the opening of the future Lincoln University, he published an extended series of articles on the issue of slavery, challenging the views of George D. Armstrong, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Norfolk, Virginia, who called himself a “Pro-slavery man” and whose The Christian Doctrine of Slavery was a major Southern theological defense of the practice. Cortlandt van Rensselaer positioned himself as a “conservative” on the issue, “repudiating, on the one hand, the fundamental principal of fanatical abolitionism … and, on the other hand, rejecting with equal conscientiousness the ultra defences of slavery, which constitute it a Divine ordinance … and which claim for it an undefined permanence.” “Christians, whose minds and hearts are imbued with the spirit of their Lord,” he wrote, “cannot regard with complacency an institution, whose origin is in wrong, and whose continuance depends upon the inferior condition of a large class of their fellow-men.”56 He advocated education and religious instruction for slaves, looking toward the ultimate abolition of slavery, and he suggested that many more were ready for freedom, or could shortly be made ready for freedom, than Armstrong and other Southern defenders of slavery were ready to admit. Still, he ends his argument with the sentiment that the prospects that freed African-Americans could really look forward to being treated as equal citizens in the United States were not hopeful, based on past experience, and that one could be thankful that another option had been made available for them by the American Colonization Society and the possibility of emigration to Liberia.
As one might expect, given the commitment of their Seminary professors, colonization was a popular cause among many Princeton Seminary alumni. Daved Anthony Schmidt has identified a dozen Princeton Seminary alumni who served as administrators in national or regional colonization societies, and many others were undoubtedly members or supporters of the movement.57
While support for eventual abolition of slavery, education, colonization, and the amelioration of the conditions of slavery remained popular positions among Princeton Seminary alumni, there were also those, especially those who came from the South or emigrated there to serve following their Princeton education, who actively supported the institution of slavery and even themselves owned slaves. One of the earliest graduates of Princeton Seminary was Samuel Blanchard How (Class of 1815). Born in New Jersey, he attended the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton Seminary and was ordained in 1815. While his earliest ministerial services were in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, in 1823 he accepted a call to the Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Georgia. He served there until 1827, then returned north to serve primarily in Dutch Reformed churches. His major ministry was at the First Reformed Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey, where he was pastor from 1832 until 1861.
In 1855, the General Synod of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church received a petition from the North Carolina Classis of the German Reformed Church seeking formal ecclesiastical connection. The petition was ultimately rejected by the Synod, with two main objections being raised during the debate. The first was from those who felt it would be “inexpedient” and would disturb the “peace of the church” as it would raise the divisive issue of slavery in church debates, many members of the North Carolina Classis being slaveholders. The second objection was from those in the church who held that slaveholding was an outright sin and that the church should not hold communion with persons who held others in bondage. Samuel How made an eloquent address to the Synod in defense of the North Carolina Classis and in support of their bid for formal ecclesial connection. The substance of his address, together with an extended appendix on slavery and its history, was eventually published under the title Slaveholding Not Sinful. Much of it is a review of passages in the Bible that deal with the topic of slavery, showing that indeed slavery “is constantly spoken of in the Sacred Scriptures, but there is no direct prohibition of it.” How proposed that slavery was one of the “penal effects of the fall, and of the great wickedness of men,” but that masters would be accountable before God for the treatment of their slaves. Since God has permitted slavery to exist, slave owners should not be kept out of the church. Rather, they should be admonished to do their duty to their slaves (“Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal, knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven,” Col. 4:1). Likewise, the slave should be admonished to “submit to the rule of his master and to perform the duties which he owes him with fidelity, and in fear of God.”
Besides the biblical arguments, How had other considerations to present. He felt that Southern slave owners had been grossly misrepresented in the North in pieces such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Further, he felt that slave owners in the American South were unjustly accused of being “manstealers” and pirates. After all, the slave trade had been quite legal in most states until the early years of the nineteenth century and had been confirmed in the U.S. Constitution. It was Africans who had sold their fellow Africans into slavery. At most, the Southerners might be held responsible for “receiving stolen goods, knowing them to have been stolen,” but that the British and Northern ship owners who had brought the slaves to North America and sold them were equally guilty in this regard. Therefore anyone who had received funds which could be traced back to the slave trade was also to be held accountable. “Let us deal fairly with both, and say to the Southerner, Emancipate at once your slaves; and to the Northerner, and especially to the Abolitionist, Relinquish at once all the property which you hold which originally was acquired by trafficking in slaves.” While he feels this is good reasoning, he in fact does not feel it should be actually carried out, as such a thing “would shake society to its foundations”:
Suppose, then, that the three millions of Southern slaves were all liberated at once, that the wishes of the Abolitionist were carried out to their full extent. What would be their condition? Would we join them to drive the Southern white men from their homes, and to seize their property, and so throw them out, with their families, houseless, impoverished and helpless? Or are the Abolitionists of the North prepared to receive and support these three millions of slaves? … None can predict what disasters and crimes and sorrows would follow an event so marked by folly and wickedness.58 How’s address must have spoken to a fair number of people, as the first edition quickly sold out and was followed by a second. He was preparing yet a third edition as the Civil War broke out in 1861.
Another prominent Princeton Seminary alumnus who spoke on behalf of Southern slave owners was James Adair Lyon (Class of 1836). Born in Tennessee and a graduate of Washington College in Tennessee, he served churches in Tennessee and Mississippi from 1837 to 1847. In 1848, he moved to St. Louis where he served a congregation and founded a school for young women, and then returned to his congregation in Mississippi in 1855 and served there throughout the Civil War and until 1870, when he became professor of mental and moral science at the University of Mississippi. He was a recognized leader in the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America, and his articles, sermons, and comments appeared in the Southern Presbyterian Review, the True Witness and Sentinel (published in Memphis and New Orleans), in the Columbus, South Carolina, newspapers, and other Southern periodicals. In 1863, he was elected moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America. In 1850, he delivered an address to the Missouri Colonization Society that was frequently republished as The Missionary Aspect of African Colonization. In 1859, there was an attempt to bring illegally pirated Africans into Mississippi, and James Lyon had boldly spoken out against such activity in an address on Christianity and the Civil Laws. On a national fast day proclaimed by President Buchanan in early 1861, Lyon spoke out against secession in his sermon. However in the following months, he embraced the Southern cause and in his Confederate Fast Day Sermon, preached in June of that year, he declared that “We must regard the present crisis as one of the grand moves in God’s providence to bring about a higher and better order of things.”
One of the most important and interesting documents to come from the pen of James Adair Lyon is Slavery and the duties growing out of the Relation. In December 1861, Lyon was appointed the chair of a committee tasked by the Southern General Assembly to express their views on the slavery issue. It was presented at the Southern General Assembly of 1863, held in Columbia, South Carolina, in the midst of the war. Although never formally adopted by the Southern General Assembly, the whole document is worth reading for its insight into the mind of the theologically educated Southern Presbyterian regarding his view of the issue. It was published for circulation in the Southern Presbyterian Review, and Lyon asserts that many “secretly approved of the sentiments therein set forth, yet they never adopted them as their own.”59
There is not room here for an extensive review of this piece, but it begins by acknowledging that the “providence of God” has remarkably committed to the people of the Southern States the “great responsibility” but also “high privilege” of “elevating a whole people, which have been, by the manifest interposition of the Almighty, transplanted from their own land of darkness and degradation, where nature is not propitious to civilization and mental development, to this favored land of promise—this home of light and liberty, and, infinitely above all, of a pure Christianity.” Although admitting that avarice, cruelty and greed were manifest in the way this was carried out and deploring “the African slave trade” as immoral, it was seen as part of God’s great design, bringing good out of evil, as had been the case of the selling of Joseph into Egypt. The piece goes on to justify the existence of slavery itself, apart from any abuses that have crept in. “Like the existence of God, it is taken for granted from the beginning to the end of the Bible … slavery, in some form or other, does exist, will exist, and must exist in the present condition of humanity.” The question is “what kind of slavery … will most accord with the laws of nature and the spirit of Christianity.” If the responsibilities of the slave owner are properly carried out, the slave, “like the parasitic plant that rises with the oak, is elevated with and by the master. … The most favorable condition of the black man, on this continent, is that of servitude. For this state he is eminently qualified by nature, being constitutionally kind, affectionate, imitative, and contented. He would be utterly incapable of taking care of himself, as facts do but too sadly prove.” There are indeed “evils and abuses” connected with slavery, but these are regretted “by all good men.” As “a tree is more fruitful, and a flower more beautiful” when it is properly cultivated, so the good slave owner has a responsibility to educate his slaves and provide them with religious instruction:
A smart slave is more valuable than a stupid one … the more intelligent a slave is, and the greater his capacity to reason, the more contented he is with his servile condition, provided he is treated correctly, and the less likely to engage in insurrectionary and unlawful enterprises, since he is the more capable of perceiving, not only the hopelessness of such dangerous and futile attempts, but the undesirableness of success, even if they were feasible. … Still further it is perfectly manifest that in proportion as a slave’s conscience is cultivated in accordance with the principles of the Bible, the less likely he is to become a criminal.
The document recommends having slaves attend worship and be given instruction in Christianity. It also recommends laws against teaching slaves to read be repealed, but does not recommend slaves be sent to schools and academies “in their present condition.” It recommends against leaving slaves simply under the control of overseers, rather than under the good influence of the slave owner and his family, and against “the practice, too prevalent in many localities, of unauthorized assemblies taking the law into their own hands.” Finally, a major section deals with the evils of breaking up slave families and destroying marriage and domestic relations among slaves.
One of the most prominent Presbyterian preachers in the middle years of the nineteenth century was Henry Jackson Van Dyke (Class of 1846). After pastorates in South Jersey and Germantown, Pennsylvania, he was called to the prestigious pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn, New York. In December 1860, on the very eve of the Civil War, following the election of Lincoln and the already rumbling threats of secession from South Carolina, he preached a sermon on 1 Timothy 6:1-5, a passage which enjoins “servants as are under the yoke” (that is, “slaves”) to honor and obey their masters, whether the masters be believers or unbelievers, “that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.” The sermon was shortly expanded into a printed pamphlet under the title “The Character and Influence of Abolitionism.” In it he charges the abolitionist movement with having no foundation in scripture, misrepresenting the true situation of most slaves in the South, leading often to complete infidelity regarding the beliefs and practices of the Christian religion, and finally accusing the movement as “the chief cause of the strife that agitates, and the danger that threatens our country.” At several points he takes specific aim at fellow Princeton Seminary alumnus Albert Barnes, including extended footnotes in small print, challenging the way Barnes has interpreted the scriptures and calling Barnes the person who “has done more, perhaps, than any other man in this country to propagate Abolitionist doctrine.” Against abolitionist accounts of the atrocities of slavery, he prefers that his hearers should know of Christian families in the South where “slaves are better fed and clothed and instructed, and have a better opportunity for salvation, than the majority of laboring people in the city of New York.” He gives an extended quote from the Southern Presbyterian pastor and theologian Benjamin Palmer, who would become the first Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America in 1861:
The worst foes of the black race are those who have intermeddled on their behalf. We know better than others, that every attribute of their character fits them for dependence and servitude. By nature the most affectionate and loyal of all races beneath the sun, they are also the most helpless; and no calamity can befall them greater than the loss of that protection they enjoy under this patriarchal system. Indeed the experiment has been grandly tried of precipitating them upon freedom which they know not how to enjoy; and the dismal results are before us in statistics that astonish the world. … Freedom would be their doom.
Van Dyke went on to proclaim his substantial agreement with Benjamin Palmer and the South Carolinian Presbyterian leader James Henley Thornwell, who also defended slavery as morally right and justified under the Christian religion. Referencing one of the classic biblical friendships, he wrote “My soul is knit to such men with the sympathy of Jonathan for David.”60
By 1861, America was embroiled in a Civil War. While one cannot determine views on slavery simply from participation in the war, records indicate that somewhere near 170 former Princeton Seminary students served in some official military capacity during the Civil War. Of this total, 145 served with the Union and 24 with the Confederacy. For the most part, those who served acted as chaplains, though two served as surgeons for the Union and another handful served in official support roles for the Union war effort. Thirty-nine alumni are recorded as serving in combat roles with the Union Army, and five in combat roles for the Confederacy.61
The number of African-American students at Princeton Seminary in the nineteenth century was never large, but at least some had personally experienced slavery before coming to the Seminary. African-American alumni of the Seminary often were able to put their abilities, combined with their education, to significant use following graduation in working for the welfare of their people. Although a number of them only came to Princeton Seminary after the close of the Civil War, they had often been born during the period of slavery, and their lives and ministries were deeply shaped by the pre-Civil War history of the African-American community and the new challenges that emerged in the period of Reconstruction. Since many of their stories are not well known, it is appropriate to recount at least a few of them here.
We have already looked briefly at the life and ministry of Theodore Sedgwick Wright. Henry M. Wilson (Class of 1848) served churches in Manhattan and Brooklyn. He helped form the American League of Colored Laborers to provide vocational education for African-Americans for jobs in manufacturing, agriculture, and commerce, and to provide business loans for African-Americans starting their own businesses. In 1858, he joined Henry Highland Garnet in founding the African Civilization Society to “promote the civilization and Christianization of Africa, as well as the welfare of her children in all lands.” The organization promoted the emigration of African-Americans to Africa and worked with African-American churches to set up sabbath and day schools in the Northeast and, after the Civil War, schools for freed African-Americans in the South.62
Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs (Class of 1856) served churches in Troy, New York, and Philadelphia. He became active in the abolitionist movement, working with Frederick Douglass and writing for anti-slavery publications. At one point he requested permission from his presbytery to immigrate to Africa, but at the insistence of his congregation that his services were needed here he withdrew his request. In Philadelphia he became a key figure in the local Underground Railroad. As the Civil War drew to a close, he moved to Charleston, South Carolina, to establish a school for freed African-Americans. In 1867, he moved to Florida, where he helped draft the 1868 Florida Constitution. He served as secretary of state of Florida for four years and went on to become superintendent of public instruction for the state in 1873. Reports indicated that the standards of public education in Florida improved significantly during his term in office and that he worked hard to promote racial integration in the public schools.63
George Collins (Class of 1870) was born in California and attended Oberlin College, graduating in 1865. He attended Princeton Seminary from 1867 to 1870. A letter in his alumnus file indicates that upon graduation he took a position at the Lincoln Mission in Washington, D.C., under the auspices of the American Missionary Association in New York City. During the Civil War there had been religious work begun in the camps around Washington, D.C., and after the war thousands of freedmen had ended up there. Various benevolent organizations and church groups provided food, clothing, and religious instruction for this population. Among these was the American Missionary Association, which set up the Colfax Industrial Mission in 1868 “for the education of colored children of Washington.” It was formally dedicated in 1870 and renamed the Lincoln Industrial Mission. Today the Lincoln Temple United Church of Christ stands on this site, considered the oldest African-American Congregational Church in Washington, D.C. There is also an indication that Collins served as a tutor at Howard University, which likewise had been founded by the Congregationalists shortly after the Civil War and was supported financially at that time by the Freedmen’s Bureau. Unfortunately, George Collins was not able to serve very long in his Washington, D.C. position, as the note in the alumnus record indicates that he died in 1871. 64
Thomas McCants Stewart (Class of 1881) was born of free parents in Charleston, South Carolina in 1853. Proving to be a good student, he went to Howard University at age 15. He eventually transferred to the University of South Carolina, one of the first African-Americans to attend that institution, and graduated in 1875 with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the college and Bachelor of Laws degree from the Department of Law. He entered the practice of law and then served as a professor of mathematics at the State Agricultural College of South Carolina. He entered Princeton Seminary in 1878, serving as stated supply of the Mt. Pisgah African Methodist Episcopal Church in Princeton, and studied here until 1880, continuing his studies with President McCosh at Princeton College for another two years while also serving as pastor of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in New York City. In 1883, he set sail with fellow Princeton Seminary African-American alumnus Hugh Mason Browne for Liberia, visiting Scotland, England, France, and Germany on the way. He took a position as professor of law and belles lettres in the College of Liberia and served as General Agent for Liberian Education. In 1886, he returned to North America and was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of the State of New York and thereafter to the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1898.
His legal work was frequently commended in the official records of the courts. He served on the Board of Education for the Borough of Brooklyn and organized the Brooklyn Literary Union, of which he was president. Among his achievements in Brooklyn was to help establish an officially mixed-race public school with an African-American supervisor of new teachers. In 1898, he moved to Hawaii, where he carried on an extensive legal practice and was appointed by the governor as one of five commissioners to draw up the Local Government Act for the Hawaiian Islands. In 1905, he conducted a lecture tour in Great Britain and then returned to Liberia in 1906. He was appointed an associated justice of the Liberian Supreme Court and was sent to Europe as deputy attorney general to help negotiate a boundary settlement between Liberia and the governments of France and Great Britain. In 1914, he returned to London, and in 1921, he moved to the Virgin Islands, where he continued his law practice. At his death in 1923, he asked to be buried wrapped in the Liberian flag. Among his publications was Liberia: The Americo- African Republic, published in 1886.65
Matthew Anderson (Class of 1877) grew up in a home that had been a station on the Underground Railroad. After completing his studies at Oberlin College, he enrolled at the Western Theological Seminary in the Pittsburgh area, but after a short time there he applied to Princeton Seminary in 1874. Arriving at Princeton, he was mistaken at first for a workman come to do a job. Although he later recalled that there was some reluctance to give him a room in Alexander Hall (African-American students had often roomed in town with African-American families), his own insistence and the help and support of Princeton Seminary students living in Alexander Hall at the time led to his soon receiving a proper dorm room there. Anderson became the founding pastor of the Berean Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. He took a holistic approach to the work of ministry. He once wrote, “I could never believe, that the work of a Gospel minister was simply preaching, in the commonly accepted sense of the term, but that it included everything, which tended to the development of the whole man.” He founded the Berean Savings Association so that African-Americans could borrow money to buy homes. He founded the Berean Institute to teach job skills, such as plumbing, tailoring, carpentry, and home management. His wife, Caroline Still Anderson, daughter of the famous abolitionist William Still and one of the first African-American women medical doctors, helped start prenatal classes and nurseries.66
Another prominent nineteenth century African-American alumnus of Princeton Seminary was Francis James Grimke (Class of 1878). Francis Grimke came to Princeton Seminary after the Civil War, having grown up in the system of slavery. He was the second of three sons born to the white planter Henry Grimke of Charleston, South Carolina, and his black slave, Nancy Weston, with whom he had set up a domestic relation following the death of his wife. Henry Grimke died in 1852, when the first two children of his second family were still young and the third had not yet been born. In order to protect the second family, he willed them to his white son and heir, the half-brother of Francis by Henry’s original wife. Henry’s intention was that they should live as free blacks, but in 1860 the son of the first wife claimed the boys as his slaves. He treated them poorly, and Francis ran away, offering himself as a valet to a Confederate officer. The officer was stationed in various places during the war, but when his outfit returned to Charleston, Francis was recognized as a runaway and put in prison. After again being treated poorly, Francis was sold to another Confederate officer, from whom he eventually was able to run away again and hide until the end of the Civil War gave him his freedom.
Francis Grimke and his brother did well in their schooling following the war at schools set up for free blacks in Charleston and then went on to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania for further studies. Henry Grimke had come from a large family, among whom were two sisters, Angelina and Sarah Grimke. They had become ardent abolitionists, joined the Society of Friends (Quakers), and moved from Charleston to Philadelphia before the war. When they discovered their African-American relatives at Lincoln University, they helped support them through their education, acknowledging them as part of their family. Francis and his brother, Archibald, graduated from Lincoln University in 1870. Francis was in fact the class valedictorian. After teaching at Lincoln for a few years, he entered the law school at Howard University in 1874, but the following year decided to take up theological studies at Princeton Seminary. He married Charlotte Forten, a granddaughter of James Forten. The Fortens had been leaders of the free African-American community in Philadelphia for years, and Charlotte was close friends with many of the leading abolitionists.
After graduating from Princeton Seminary, Grimke became pastor of the prominent Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., a major African-American congregation. With the exception of a few years in Jacksonville, Florida, he held this post throughout his ministerial career and used it to become a leading spokesperson for the African- American community and its concerns until his death in 1937. He was the author of numerous published sermons and tracts, urging his people to fight for their rights. “It is our duty to keep up the agitation for our rights, not only for our sakes, but also for the nation at large. … If justice sleeps in this land, let it not be because we have helped to lull it to sleep by our silence, our indifference; let it not be from lack of effort on our part to arouse it from its slumbers. … Even Balaam’s ass cried out in protest when smitten by his brutal master and God gave him power to cry out, endowed him miraculously with speech in which to voice his protest,” he wrote. He called for an end to lawless lynching and other abuses of the Reconstructionist period and the early twentieth century. He challenged segregation in the YMCA and publicly spoke out against Woodrow Wilson’s policy of segregating the various departments of the federal government. He also challenged racism as he experienced it in the Presbyterian church. He became one of the founders of the movements among African-Americans that eventually gave birth to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).67
A classmate of Francis Grimke in the Princeton Seminary Class of 1878 was Hugh Mason Browne. Browne was born in Washington, D.C., in 1851, and joined the Fifteenth St. Presbyterian Church there at age 16. He attended Howard University and came to Princeton Seminary in 1875. While at the Seminary, he served the Witherspoon Presbyterian Church in Princeton. After completing his work at the Seminary, he took an additional year of study at the seminary of the Free Church of Scotland in Edinburgh. He became the Charles Hodge Professor of Intellectual and Moral Philosophy at Liberia College, West Africa, serving from 1882-1884, but after becoming familiar with the educational situation in Liberia was convinced that the money spent on the college would be better spent on a system of common schools and first-class industrial schools. Returning to the United States, he became head of the department of physics in a segregated high school in Washington, D.C., where he instituted the laboratory method of teaching physics. In 1897, he was called to Hampton Institute in Virginia, where he developed the physics department and reorganized a summer school for teachers. He also patented a device to prevent water backflow in cellars during this time and devised the plan for Hampton Institute’s exhibit at the Paris Exposition of 1900. The exhibit won a gold medal. His next appointment was to the Colored High School and Colored Polytechnical School in Baltimore, where he was able for the first time to place them under the management of African-American faculties. He was invited by the Society of Friends in Philadelphia to come and reorganize the Institute for Colored Youth, which had been set up in 1837 as an educational and training school for African-Americans. Under his leadership this institute was relocated to an enlarged location in nearby Cheyney, Pennsylvania. He served the Institute as principal until 1913, increasing the academic offerings and establishing a summer school for African-American teachers. Today the school is known as Cheyney University. Browne was also secretary of a “Committee of Twelve for the Advancement of the Interests of the Negro Race,” which among other achievements successfully lobbied to defeat bills that would have disenfranchised African-American voters in Maryland. Following his retirement in 1913, Hugh Browne continued to serve as a consultant to Cheyney and to promote vocational education in the African-American community. To further his knowledge in this area he made a trip to Germany to study the vocational education system in that country.68
Daniel Wallace Culp was a member of the Princeton Seminary Class of 1879. Born into slavery in South Carolina in 1852, he developed an interest in study at an early age, at first under the tutelage of his master. Following the Civil War, his former master continued tutoring him. In 1869, he entered the Biddle Memorial Institute (now Johnson C. Smith University), becoming its first graduate in 1876. His abilities in mathematics and the languages astonished his teachers, and he advanced so rapidly beyond his classmates that he was soon put in a class by himself. In the fall following his graduation from Biddle he entered Princeton Seminary. Again he was regarded as one of the brightest students in his class and excelled in Hebrew and theology. He also took courses in philosophy and psychology at Princeton College with Princeton College president James McCosh. This led to a rather telling incident when several Princeton College students objected to his presence in the classroom and threatened to leave the college if Culp continued to attend the class. McCosh told them he would be sorry to see them go, but that under no circumstances would he exclude Daniel Culp from his class. While they all carried out their threat and left, all but one eventually returned to Princeton at the urging of their parents.69
Following graduation from the Seminary, Daniel Culp served churches in South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, and Tennessee. While in Florida he also served as principal of Stanton Institute, one of the most well-regarded secondary schools for African-American students in the state. After a time he became deeply concerned about the physical welfare of his people and resigned his pastorate to study medicine at the University of Michigan and at the Medical College of Columbus, Ohio. From 1891 onward, he practiced medicine in Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida until his death in 1918. During his time in Georgia he was elected by the city council as superintendent and resident physician of the Freedmen’s Hospital of that city. He also lectured widely and in 1902 edited Twentieth Century Negro Literature or a Cyclopedia of Thought on Vital Topics Relating to the American Negro.70 Part of his motivation for publishing the book, which contained essays by a number of well-known African-American writers, was to correct what he felt was widespread ignorance on the part of white people regarding the intellectual abilities of the African-Americans. A second reason was to inform white people what African- Americans themselves were thinking about America’s race problem. A third reason was to encourage intellectual consideration of important issues by the African-American community itself and to inspire young African-Americans by presenting the literary and scholarly work of contemporary African-American authors.
Another outstanding nineteenth century African-American alumnus of Princeton Seminary was William Alfred Byrd (Class of 1894). Born in South Carolina in 1867, he grew up in North Carolina and received his education at Biddle College. When he arrived at Princeton Seminary in 1891, he was the only African-American student in his class. He would become not only an honor student, but treasurer of his class. After graduation he was told that after a year of service in the parish he might return to Biddle as its president, provided that he not speak out too forcefully concerning “certain things,” which his son understood to mean speaking out on issues concerning civil rights for African-Americans in the American South. Refusing the offer under these conditions, he served for two years in rural congregations in North Carolina, and then moved to Arkansas where he became principal and chaplain of the Cotton Plant Industrial Academy, a secondary school for African-Americans.
In 1905, William Byrd moved his family to Rochester, New York. At that time the Great Migration of southern African-Americans to the North was still going on, and Byrd’s congregation became a significant focus of the African-American community in Rochester. In 1905, there was a major conference of African-American leaders in Niagara Falls, which eventually led to the establishment of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) a few years later. Among the leaders Byrd came to know in the developing movement were W.E.B. Du Bois. He was also a close friend of William Robeson, one-time pastor of the Witherspoon Church in Princeton, father of the actor and singer Paul Robeson, and another of the leaders of the young NAACP. Robeson encourage Byrd to move back to New Jersey, where he became pastor of the Lafayette Presbyterian Church in Jersey City in 1917. In addition to his pastoral work, Byrd continued his work for the African-American community as a whole, and the NAACP branch in Jersey City became the largest in the nation under his leadership. He also helped establish the National Urban League. His outspokenness also led to some opposition, and when he pressed for more African-American leadership in his presbytery he was dismissed, ostensibly on grounds that he had made repairs to the manse without consulting the elders. He went on to found a nondenominational Community Church, which became a center of community action and a place where visiting speakers of all kinds were welcomed. Some years later the presbytery voted to reinstate William Byrd, but he declined and continued pastoring in his Community Church. “I know that I am a Presbyterian, whether you accept me or not,” he is reported to have said. Nevertheless, he held a long-standing affectionate regard for Princeton Seminary, and his son Franz Byrd established an award at the Seminary, given each year to the student who it was felt had contributed most significantly to the life of the Seminary during his or her years on the campus.71
The last African-American to study at Princeton Seminary who had personally experienced slavery was Irwin William Langston Roundtree (Class of 1895). Born of slave parents in Georgia before the Civil War, he eventually went on to a very fruitful ministerial career. One of his early memories was of the slaves celebrating freedom from slavery by the singing of old plantation songs and hand-shaking, accompanied by prayer. Throughout his life he exhibited a deep desire for education. His early studies were at a little country school taught by an Africa-American Union Army veteran following the war. He also learned from a white Methodist Sunday School teacher and availed himself of other teachers in his immediate neighborhood. As time went on he had to postpone his studies to work on the family farm, but he later moved to Florida, where he earned his living as a lumberman in connection with a sawmill and as a railroad worker. Saving his money, he was able to enter Cookman Institute in Jacksonville, which had been set up by the Methodists to educate African-Americans. He also taught school in rural Florida in the African-American community. He did further studies at the Baptist Institute in Live Oaks, Florida, and was licensed to preach by the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He went on to the preparatory program of Howard University, but his health failed him at this point, and after working a summer as a porter in Cape May, New Jersey, he returned to Florida. He was eventually able to attend Lincoln University, from which he graduated in 1886.
Irwin Roundtree served in the Virginia Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church following his graduation from Lincoln, and he was then approved for formal seminary studies. He entered Drew Theological Seminary in 1888, receiving his Bachelor of Divinity in 1893. He also took classes at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1892 to 1894, including courses in Hebrew and Arabic, and received a master’s degree from Princeton College as well, taking additional courses in the field of philosophy there. While pursuing these graduate courses he also pastored churches in Madison, New Jersey (1889-1890); Englewood, New Jersey (1891); Bridgeton, New Jersey (1892-1893); and Princeton, New Jersey (1893-1895). Following these years of advanced education, he served churches in Trenton, New Brunswick, and Burlington, New Jersey (1895-1898) and then was called to become a presiding elder of the New Jersey Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He served in this capacity from 1898 until 1915 and as pastor of the Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Trenton from 1906 until 1931. He also served as a trustee of Wilberforce University, was a member of the Historical and Literary Society of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was a commissioner for the Bordentown Industrial School under the state Board of Education, and was a representative to the World’s Temperance Conference in Chicago in 1892 and to the Federal Council of Churches. During the winter of 1929-1930, he had an opportunity to take a study leave at Oxford University in Great Britain. Irwin Roundtree was politically active in state and national politics, serving at one point as an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention, as well as serving the church. He retired in 1931 and continued to live in Trenton until his death in 1948.72
While this survey of Princeton Seminary alumni is not exhaustive, it is representative of the breadth of viewpoints on the matter of slavery in the nineteenth century. Alumni settled in the United States and abroad; they served churches, started schools, and engaged in various forms of ministry in the American North, South, and West. All of them were in some way shaped by the environment and ethos of the seminary community. Some adopted similar views on colonization as their professors; others argued stridently for abolition and were prominent figures in the anti-slavery movement. Their stories, their activism, and their impact in the church and in society are another important—and equally complex—facet of the history of Princeton Seminary with regard to slavery.