Photos: Princeton Seminary students call on trustees to change name of chapel
More than 100 students and faculty members at Princeton Theological Seminary gathered in front of the school’s chapel last week to call on the board of trustees to change the name of Miller Chapel, the center of community worship at the seminary. The board of trustees meets today, Jan. 25.
The Association of Black Seminarians and other student groups at the seminary want Samuel Miller’s name removed from the school’s chapel due to his use of slaves. They have also asked seminary leaders to establish a renaming process for all of the buildings on the campus that are named after people with ties to slavery.
Students have vowed that they will stop worshiping in the chapel, the center of communal spiritual life at the seminary, if the name is not removed by the start of the spring semester on Jan. 31.
Miller, the second professor at the seminary, was a native of Delaware who joined the seminary in 1813 after a distinguished pastorate in New York City. According to The Princeton Seminary Slavery Audit Report, he employed slave labor during his lifetime, including when he lived in Princeton. He held slaves for a period of years under the provision in New Jersey law that allowed the gradual abolition of slavery.
In addition to the physical removal of Miller’s name from the chapel building, students are calling on the president of the seminary to make an announcement about the removal and the establishment of a process for renaming the chapel.
A seminary spokesperson has not responded to requests for comment on the issue.
Students supporting the name change gathered in front of the chapel for a time of prayer on Tuesday morning. They will meet in front of the chapel again at 5 p.m .on Wednesday, Jan. 26, when the president of the school is expected to announce the decision of the trustees.
Photos by Denise Carrell.
I strongly suggest naming the (hopefully) former Miller chapel for Reverend William Drew Robeson. Reverent Robeson, a formerly enslaved man, served as Pastor of the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church in Princeton for twenty years. He was ousted because he spoke out for justice. To remove a racist person who enslaved people is not enough. But to rename the chapel for a person, himself previously enslaved, AND a Presbyterian would be an active assertion of justice, perhaps even considered anti-racist, and potentially healing for the seminary and Princeton communities.
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