- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 1, 2016

Georgetown University will give preferential admission and financial aid to the descendants of 272 slaves sold nearly 200 years ago by Maryland Jesuits to pay off debts the school owed.

John J. DeGioia, president of the Jesuit university in the District, announced the move on Thursday as the school released a report calling on its officials to formally apologize and atone for Georgetown’s profiting from the slave trade.

In 1838, the Revs. Thomas Mulledy and William McSherry, who both had held the position of university president, sold the slaves for about $115,000 to pay off school debts. That’s the equivalent of more than $3 million today, adjusted for inflation.

According to the report, the slaves were sent from the Jesuits’ plantations in Maryland to Louisiana, “where they labored under dreadful conditions,” and families were broken up.

The transaction was one of the most thoroughly documented large sales of enslaved people in history, and the names of many of the people sold are included in bills of sale, a transport manifest and other documents, The Associated Press reported.

Genealogical research conducted by Georgetown and by other organizations, including The New York Times, has identified many living descendants of the slaves.

Last September, Mr. DeGioia convened the Working Group on Slavery, Memory and Reconciliation to figure out how best to acknowledge Georgetown’s historical relationship with slavery.

The panel consisted of faculty, students, staff and alumni, and its report was released Thursday, saying that Georgetown should recognize the slave sale and make a formal apology, among other things.

“The University, despite the many ways that it has invested resources over the past half-century to heal the wounds of racial injustice, has not made such an apology,” the report says. “While there can be empty apologies, words of apology, genuinely expressed, make a difference in the quest for reconciliation.”

In an unprecedented outreach effort, Mr. DeGioia has been traveling the country to meet the descendants of the slaves sold by the university and has made trips to Spokane, Washington, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, among other places.

“We will give descendants the same consideration we give members of the Georgetown community in the admissions process,” the president said in a letter to the Georgetown community.

Georgetown isn’t the first major university to recognize how the slave trade played a part in its history. The University of Virginia in 2007 moved to recognize and apologize for the use of slaves at the school in the 19th century. And Brown University published a 2006 report outlining it’s part in the 18th century slave trade.

Georgetown already had committed to renaming two buildings that had been named for the priests who orchestrated the sale. On Thursday, Mr. DeGioia announced that those buildings will be named after Isaac, the enslaved man whose name is the first mentioned in documents of the sale, and Anne Marie Becraft, a free African-American woman who founded a school for black girls in the Georgetown neighborhood in 1827.

The Georgetown report also made several other recommendations, including:

⦁ Commissioning an oral history project and public events to tell the story of the slave sale

⦁ Build a memorial to the slaves and their families on the grounds of the university with all 272 names displayed.

⦁ Create a new branch of the university called Institute for the Study of Slavery and its Legacies at Georgetown.

⦁ Create a historical walking tour of black history in Georgetown.

⦁ Ramp up efforts to recruit more black students, especially from those places where the slave trade tore apart families.

Andrew Black contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide