The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, the flagship seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention, recently released a 71-page report examining the institution’s ties to slavery. The seminary was established in 1859 in Greenville, South Carolina. It suspended operations during the Civil War and moved to Louisville in 1877.
The investigation, led by three Black and three White faculty members, found no evidence that the school had a connection to the slave trade. However, the founders of the seminary collectively owned more than 50 slaves. Also, after the Civil War, a major contributor to the seminary was involved in the exploitation of Black convict laborers who often toiled under conditions similar to slavery. The seminary did not admit its first Black student until the 1940s and did not permit African Americans to participate in graduation ceremonies until 1952.
The report stated that the founders “argued first that slaveholding was righteous because the inferiority of Blacks indicated God’s providential will for their enslavement, corroborated by Noah’s prophetic cursing of Ham. They argued second that slaveholding was righteous because southern slaves accrued such remarkable material and spiritual benefits from it.”
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary enrolled 5,354 students during the 2017-18 academic year. Most of the students are in graduate programs. African Americans made up 4.3 percent of the student body that academic year.