Georgetown Founds New Institute in Reparation for Selling Slaves

Georgetown University Alex WongGetty
Alex Wong/Getty

On Thursday, Georgetown University President John DeGioia announced that the University would take a series of steps to make public reparation for having sold 272 black slaves—men, women and children—in order to save the financially-strapped institution in 1838, including the establishment of a new “Institute for the Study of Slavery and Its Legacies at Georgetown.”

DeGioia sent a letter to all “members of the Georgetown University community,” notifying them that these and other recommendations had been made by the Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation, which was set up last fall to address Georgetown’s historical relationship with black slavery.

“We will establish an Institute for the Study of Slavery and Its Legacies to support research, teaching, and public history, as well as continued active engagement with descendants,” he states in the letter.

On Thursday afternoon, DeGioia held an open forum with students and to address the scandal sparked by revelations that the Jesuit priests who ran the nation’s top Catholic university had sold hundreds of slaves to be shipped to plantations in the Deep South in order to keep the fledgling university alive.

In his letter, the President announced that descendants of slaves exploited by the University would be given special treatment in the admissions process if they wish to attend Georgetown. Henceforth they will be given the same consideration offered to members of the Georgetown community in the admissions process, as well as receiving financial assistance.

In commemoration of those slaves, DeGioia said that the University will establish a “living and evolving memorial to the enslaved people from whom Georgetown benefited,” along with a Working Group—including descendants of those slaves—to advise on its creation.

The University will also rename the original Mulledy Hall as Isaac Hall, in honor of Isaac, the enslaved person whose name is the first mentioned in the documents of the 1838 sale. It will rename McSherry Hall as Anne Marie Becraft Hall in honor of Anne Marie Becraft, “a free woman of color who founded a school for black girls in the neighborhood of Georgetown in 1827.”

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