Religion News Service.
On Sunday, November 15, 2015 at the 175th anniversary event for the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church, the Synod of the Northeast will clear the debt of approximately $175,000 as an act of racial reconciliation in response to the ecclesiastical lynching of the Rev. William Robeson in the late 1901. The Rev. William Robeson is the father of Paul Robeson. The Rev. Dr. Harold Delhagen says that: “As a regional community of over 1,100 Presbyterian churches committed to racial justice, this story has compelled us to do justice and not simply talk about it.”
Rev. Robeson was the pastor of Witherspoon Street, which was started by the slaves who used to sit in the balcony at First Presbyterian Church, Princeton (now Nassau Presbyterian Church), after a fire that hit First Church destroyed the balcony where the slaves sat to worship. In 1879 The Rev. Robeson, an African-American and former slave himself, became their pastor. Outspoken in his efforts to end racism and Jim Crow laws in Princeton and beyond, he was deeply beloved by his congregation.
Because of his advocacy, Rev. Robeson was forced out of his position at Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church by white members of the presbytery. This resulted in a significant loss in funding for Witherspoon Street Church and also the destruction of Rev. Robeson’s career. Due to this loss, the manse at the time of the Rev. Robeson, which was bought for $1,000, had to be sold.