By Donald Gilpin
About 100 Princeton Theological Seminary students and supporters rallied in front of the Miller Chapel on the Seminary campus on Tuesday afternoon, January 18, demanding that the Seminary remove Samuel Miller’s name from the Princeton Seminary Chapel and also establish a renaming process for all buildings on campus named after people associated with slavery.
Carrying signs calling for “Decisions not Discussion” from the Seminary Board of Trustees and for the board to “Remove Miller Now” and to “Follow Through on What You Said You Would Do,” the demonstrators chanted, sang, and cheered on several different speakers.
“We want to have the community’s support in understanding that it is preposterous to ask students to worship in a place that is named after a slave owner,” said Tamesha Mills, moderator of the Association of Black Seminarians (ABS), which has led the name-changing initiative. “If the Board of Trustees does not decide to remove the name, we will not be worshiping here.”
Miller (1769-1850), the Seminary’s second professor, employed slave labor, worked against abolition, and supported the colonization movement to send freed Blacks back to Africa, according to the 2018 Princeton Seminary Slavery Audit report.
“For too long the Seminary has held on to Samuel Miller’s name on this chapel,” Mills continued. “For too long students have felt uncomfortable worshiping in a space like this. We’re here to reclaim a sacred space. It’s not just about Samuel Miller. It’s about the students who are here now. It’s about the legacy of this institution. It’s about what we believe the gospel teaches us. So that’s why we’re here.”
The ABS initiative has already resulted in discussions with the Seminary administration. The Seminary Board of Trustees will be discussing the issue at its January 25 meeting, according to a statement issued by Princeton Theological Seminary President M. Craig Barnes. more