Georgetown University Examines Its Ties to the Slave Trade

georgetownIn September 2015, President John J. DeGioia of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. formed the Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation. The working group was given the mission of making recommendations on how best to acknowledge and recognize Georgetown’s historical relationship with the institution of slavery. The working group recently released its 104-page report.

In 1838, Father Thomas F. Mulledy, president of Georgetown University at that time, authorized the sale of 272 slaves owned by the Society of Jesus in Maryland to a slaveowner in Louisiana in order to alleviate the university’s debt. William McSherry, another former president of the university, also sold slaves and advised Father Mulledy on the 1838 sale.

Last November, President DeGioia announced that buildings on the university’s campus named to honor the former presidents who participated in the slave trade would be renamed. One building will be called Isaac Hall in honor of one of the university’s former slaves. Becraft Hall will honor Anne Marie Becraft, a free Black woman who opened a school for African American girls in Georgetown in the 1820s.

President DeGioia also announced that a memorial to the slaves would be built on campus. The university will also establish an Institute for the Study of Slavery and Its Legacies. And preferential treatment in university admissions will be given to the descendants of the university’s former slaves.

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