On Sept. 20, 2021, the Rev. Dr. Benjamin King will deliver one of two keynote addresses at an international conference being streamed from the National Institute of Newman Studies in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The theme of the conference is "John Henry Newman: Scholar, Sage, and Saint."


King’s keynote address will offer how Newman’s views on slavery have been largely neglected, along with those of his Oxford Movement contemporaries. Yet the enslaved and the goods that depended on their labor were so integrated to the British economy, before and after the abolition of colonial slavery in 1833, that some Tractarians directly invested in the slave-economy while other Tractarians benefited from it. Newman was shaped into an “anti-abolitionist” by his friend Hurrell Froude’s letters from Barbados and by his reading of the Church Fathers. A sermon preached in 1835 both challenged the need for emancipation and also justified the compensation paid to former slaveholders. These two themes of the sermon engaged the political situation of the day with a theology that was ‘not intolerant of slavery.’ Newman’s correspondence in 1863 showed that nothing substantial had changed in his views on slavery, for while other Tractarians or his fellow converts to Catholicism expressed antipathy to slavery during the US Civil War, Newman did not.


King is the professor of Christian history and associate dean for academic affairs at the School of Theology, University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, USA. He is author of Newman and the Alexandrian Fathers (2009), and co-editor with Frederick D. Aquino of Receptions of Newman (2015) and The Oxford Handbook of John Henry Newman (2018). He has lectured internationally on Newman, including at Vatican City as part of the celebrations surrounding the cardinal’s canonization.