U.S.: Descendants of slaves sold to University seek reconciliation

Georgetown University CampusIn 1838, Georgetown University sold 272 slaves who were working on plantations in southern Maryland to pay off its massive debts. The university received the equivalent of $3.3 million after these men, women, and children were sold to plantations in Louisiana. Today, a group of descendants of these slaves is seeking to establish a $1 billion foundation in partnership with the university and the Jesuits of Maryland for reconciliation.


This call comes shortly after University President John J. DeGioia announced that it would begin measures to atone for the university’s role in the slave trade, including admissions preference to the group of descendants. Additionally, two buildings will be named in honor of those enslaved and a Mass of Reconciliation will be held to apologize for its history.


“We cannot do our best work if we refuse to take ownership of such a critical part of our history,” DeGioia said at a press conference.


The president’s announcement is in response to a report produced by a 16-member working group made up of faculty members, staff, students, and alumni, who explored Georgetown’s historical connection to slavery. Leaders who signed on to the GU272 statement requested to be a part of the panel, but were not. They are now calling on the university and the Jesuits to do more for the public good.


At a time when racial tensions have escalated nationally, and students across campuses have protested the urgency to address such issues, a growing number of schools are researching, adding memorials, and acknowledging the ties to a painful past.


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