Grimke Scholarships Repent for Princeton Seminary’s Historical Relationship with Slavery

News Grimke Scholarship
Francis Grimke, Class of 1878

In 2019, Princeton Theological Seminary revealed the findings of its historical audit on slavery. It found that, while the Seminary did not own slaves or construct its buildings with slave labor, it did benefit from the slave economy through investments made in Southern banks, from donors who profited directly or indirectly from slavery, or via professors and board members who either owned slaves or used slave labor. Among its planned acts of repentance, the Seminary created the Grimke Scholarship, which covers the full cost of tuition plus $15,000 per academic year for students who are descendants of enslaved people or come from underrepresented groups.

Named for Francis James Grimke, a prominent 19th century African American alumnus of Princeton Seminary who grew up in the system of slavery, the scholarship is awarded to 10 admitted students per year. “The Grimke Scholarship is the largest we give out,” says Michael Livio, director of Student Administrative Services, explaining that its goal is to cover all the expenses of attending Princeton Seminary, including tuition, books, student fees, health insurance, and other living expenses. Twenty Grimke Scholarships have been awarded so far and, this fall, the Seminary will reach its goal of funding 30 active scholarship recipients at any given time.

“From a decreased need for student loans to a lessened burden on the personal finances of students and their families, the Grimke Scholarship has clearly made a Princeton Seminary education more affordable and attainable for the scholars who have received it,” Livio says. “It always gives me great joy to award these scholarships.”

Here, get to know two Grimke scholars.

Angela Hooks

Angela Hooks

Attending seminary was never in Angela Hooks’ plan. After earning an MFA and a PhD, Hooks had no desire to go back to school, much less live on a campus. But she felt called to preach, and was encouraged to apply. “Even in 2019, when I applied to Princeton Seminary, I was sure I’d land a full-time university job and ultimately abandon the idea of seminary altogether,” she says. “I was going with the flow, but I wasn’t invested in the idea at that time.” Indeed, while she was applying to Princeton Seminary, she was invited to interview for a faculty position and felt fairly confident she’d receive an offer — until she got an email saying they were moving in a different direction.

“Two hours later, I got an email from Princeton Seminary saying that I’ve not only been accepted, but they’re offering me the Grimke Scholarship,” Hooks says. “It was a deal I couldn’t refuse. It was like God saying, ‘I’m offering this to you to show you that I see you.’ And when God says ‘I need you to do this,’ he opens the door and makes the way, and there’s no way you can turn it down.”

The connection was undeniable. Francis Grimke’s wife was part of Hooks’ dissertation work, and being a part of the legacy of repentance at the Seminary is incredibly meaningful to her. “Getting this scholarship as a Black woman is a contribution to my church and the people that support me,” she says. “This scholarship is important for the women in my own small community in Alabama who weren’t allowed to preach. The women coming up now can say, Angela did that — she’s from a small town and got called for something bigger.”

Donavan Pinner

Donavan Pinner

Donavan Pinner began preaching when he was 16 years old, but it wasn’t until he was an undergraduate at Morehouse College that he decided seminary was the path for him. There was just one problem. “I really couldn’t afford to attend a master’s program without incurring more debt,” he says. “So the Grimke Scholarship was an automatic win for me. I always wanted to attend seminary and, with the Grimke Scholarship, Princeton Theological Seminary became affordable.” On campus, he’s deeply involved in student life as one of the Office of Admissions’ ambassadors for prospective students and as social justice co-chair for the Association of Black Seminarians.

Thanks to the scholarship, Pinner now sees even more continued education in his future, whether it’s a PhD or a law degree. “Seminary has allowed me to gain a greater understanding and study under some of the most prestigious thought leaders," he says. "Princeton Seminary is helping me determine my path."

Educating faithful Christian leaders.

Pastor of Scottsboro Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Alabama

Micaiah Tanck, Class of 2015

“The friends, colleagues, and professors I’ve met will continue to be resources for me both personally and professionally.”