Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria has announced that it has set aside $1.7 million for a slavery reparations endowment fund. Historians have documented that at least one building on the seminary’s campus was built with slave labor.
Income from the endowment fund for reparations will be put to use in a variety of ways, from encouraging more African American clergy in the Episcopal Church to directly serving the needs of any descendants of the enslaved Africans who worked at the seminary. The seminary’s first steps will be to try to identify descendants of slaves who were forced to work on the construction of campus buildings. The seminary expects the fund will generate about $70,000 annually to support the goals of the initiative.
Ian Markham, dean of the Virginia Theological Seminary issued a statement that said in part: “As we seek to mark the seminary’s milestone of 200 years, we do so conscious that our past is a mixture of sin as well as grace. This is the seminary recognizing that along with repentance for past sins, there is also a need for action.”
Rev. Joseph Thompson, director of the seminary’s Office of Multicultural Ministries, added that “though no amount of money could ever truly compensate for slavery, the commitment of these financial resources means that the institution’s attitude of repentance is being supported by actions of repentance that can have a significant impact both on the recipients of the funds, as well as on those at VTS.”
Black students were not permitted to enroll at the seminary until the 1950s, more than 120 years after it was founded.