—Programs throughout February focus on the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and Honor distinguished Black graduates of the Seminary—

Princeton, NJ, January 25, 2013–Marking the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and forty-seven years after the March on Selma, Princeton Theological Seminary will celebrate Black History Month with festive and commemorative events throughout February. The celebration kicks off on Friday, February 1 at 7:00 p.m. with a Soul Food Café and students and artists from the area sharing poetry, music, and art, in the Mackay Campus Center Auditorium. 

The month-long celebration is planned and sponsored by the Seminary’s Association of Black Seminarians (ABS), this year in partnership with Princeton University, Princeton Public Library, and other community organizations. Teddy Reeves, president of ABS and a senior at the Seminary, said, “We want to commemorate this momentous anniversary in the nation’s history by teaming up with other community partners. Together we want to celebrate and reflect on moments, people, and events during the past 150 years that have influenced the African American experience in the United States.” 

On February 4 at 8:00 p.m., Dr. Anthony Pinn, professor of religious studies at Rice University, will give the Seminary’s annual Martin Luther King Lecture on “The Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Changing Nature of U.S. Religiosity.”

Other highlights of the celebration include a worship service and concert on February 7 at 6:00 p.m., an all-night prayer vigil at the Seminary on February 8–9, a conversation on morality and the media on February 19, and performances of James Weldon Johnson’s drama God’s Trombones on February 22 and 23 at 7:00 p.m.

The month will also offer films and discussion, including Broken on All Sides on February 6 at the Princeton Public Library, Looking for Lincoln on February 13 at the Princeton Public Library, documentaries House I Live In and Long Distance Revolutionary on February 16 at the Carl Fields Center at Princeton University, and Slavery by Another Name on February 22 at the Princeton Public Library.

Elaine Pagels will give the James Baldwin Lecture at Princeton University on February 12 on “Art, Music, and Politics in the Book of Revelation.”

On February 9 all of the sponsoring organizations will host a Black History Month Gala, “Let Freedom Ring!” from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Andoinger Center, Chancellor Green Rotunda at Princeton University. This is a ticketed event.

The Seminary’s Black History Month celebration will conclude on February 27 with a worship service in Miller Chapel honoring Jane Molden, the first African American woman to graduate from Princeton Seminary. She graduated in 1952. The month culminates on February 28 with Pulitzer Prize-winning authors and historians James McPherson and Douglas Blackmon joining Princeton area high school students and community members at the Princeton High School Performing Arts Center in an examination of the historic significance of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Princeton Theological Seminary was founded in 1812, the first theological seminary of the Presbyterian Church. Its first African American graduate was Theodore Sedgwick Wright, who graduated in 1828, the first African American student to be awarded a degree from a theological seminary in the United States. Wright was pastor of the First Colored Presbyterian Church in New York City, a founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, and a leader in the Underground Railroad.

Other early African American graduates of the Seminary include Jonathan Gibbs, Class of 1834, who served as Florida’s first Black secretary of state, Matthew Anderson, Class of 1877, the founding pastor of Berean Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, and Francis James Grimke, Class of 1878, a slave during the Civil War and later pastor of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington DC, and an early supporter of the NAACP.

More recent graduates include William H. Gray III, Class of 1970, the first African American in the twentieth century to become the majority whip in the U.S. House of Representatives, who was a Philadelphia pastor and later president of the United Negro College Fund.

Another Seminary alumnus, James Reeb in the Class of 1953, was killed in the March on Selma in 1965, taking a stand for Civil Rights.

Today Princeton Seminary has more than 650 active African American alumni/ae. More than 50 African American students are currently matriculating.

For information on specific Black History Month programs, including a full schedule of events, dates, times, and locations, visit www.ptsem.edu or contact ptsblackseminarians@gmail.com. All Black History Month events are free and open to the public, with the exception of the gala.