The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, has refused a call from a group of local clergy to pay reparations to Simmons College, a local historically Black college. The call for reparations was made due to the seminary’s historic ties to slavery and racism.
In December, faculty produced a report commissioned by the seminary’s president Al Mohler which recounted the institution’s history of slavery and racism. The report found that the seminary’s founders owned slaves in the 19th century and later, seminary faculty defended racial segregation in the Jim Crow era. At that time, President Mohler stated “we must repent of our own sins, we cannot repent for the dead. We must, however, offer full lament for a legacy we inherit, and a story that is now ours.”
EmpowerWest, a Black-White coalition of clergy in Louisville, responded to the report with a petition calling for the seminary to “transfer a meaningful portion of its financial wealth” to Simmons College. 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.”
Although the seminary has refused this request from EmpowerWest, President Mohler along with board chair Matthew Schmucker noted that the seminary has been making efforts for decades to educate Black Baptist ministers. They also stated that they are open to the possibility of a partnership with Simmons College. However, President Mohler said “the Southern Baptist Convention would not allow nor support the transfer of funds to any other institution.”