Blacks and whites gather on the campus of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1950 for the first South-wide conference of Baptists for racial reconciliation. (Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives)
Blacks and whites gather on the campus of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1950 for the first South-wide conference of Baptists for racial reconciliation. (Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives)

A theological seminary in Kentucky with historic ties to slavery and racism has refused calls for reparations from a local coalition of Black and white clergy.

A faculty-produced report commissioned by the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville found that in addition to the seminary’s founders having owned slaves, the school’s faculty also defended racial segregation in the Jim Crow era.

“We must repent of our own sins, we cannot repent for the dead,” Al Mohler, the seminary’s president, said in a statement late last year. “We must, however, offer full lament for a legacy we inherit, and a story that is now ours.”

The EmpowerWest coalition responded to the report with a petition calling for the seminary to “transfer a meaningful portion of its financial wealth” to Simmons College, a private and historically Black institution in Louisville.

The coalition suggested that the seminary transfer a $50,000 donation received in 1880 from Joseph E. Brown, with compounded interest from that time. The report noted that Brown “earned much of his fortune by the exploitation of mostly Black convict-lease laborers.”

While the seminary has refused the coalition’s request, Mohler and the board chair noted that for decades the seminary has been making efforts to educate Black Baptist ministers.

They also stated that while they are open to the possibility of a partnership with Simmons College, “the Southern Baptist Convention would not allow nor support the transfer of funds to any other institution.”

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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