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Georgetown University Atones for Slave Sale

In the early 1800’s Georgetown College which is a Jesuit School ran into financial difficulties. To make up for the financial shortfall, the College sold off all their slaves, who had built the college.

Some of the descendants of those slaves who were sold off by the church, have tracked their ancestry back to that sale.

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James Henry Hicks’ family, Rachael Hicks and her two sons Beverly Hicks (l) and Nance Hicks. Descendants of slaves sold by the University to slaveholders in Louisiana.

Georgetown University to give slave descendants priority in admission

Georgetown University will give preference in admissions to the descendants of slaves owned by the Maryland Jesuits as part of its effort to atone for profiting from the sale of enslaved people.

Georgetown president John DeGioia told news outlets that the university in Washington, D.C., will implement the admissions preferences.

He says Georgetown will need to identify and reach out to descendants of slaves and recruit them to the university.

On Thursday morning, a university committee released a report that also called on its leaders to offer a formal apology for the university’s participation in the slave trade.

The chair of the Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation, David Collins, S.J., says he hopes the university can take full responsibility for its slave benefactors. “As we join the Georgetown community we must understand that part of our history is this history of slaveholding and the slave trade,” he said. “And that opens our eyes to broader social issues that are still unhealed in our nation.

“History matters up to the present and into the future.”

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In 1789, when the original Georgetown College was founded, Jesuit-owned and -operated plantations in Maryland (which helped fund the new institution) were worked with slave labor. Profits from the plantations were foreseen as a means to fund the new school.

In 1838, two priests who served as president of the university orchestrated the sale of 272 people to pay off the school’s debts. The slaves were sent from Maryland to plantations in Louisiana. The school received $115,000 in the sale, the equivalent of about $3.3 million today.

In response to the committee’s recommendations, President DeGioia today announced several steps that would be taken, including:

  • Offering an apology for the university’s historical relationship with slavery;
  • Renaming university buildings in honor of Isaac (an enslaved person mentioned in the documents of the 1838 sale) and Anne Marie Becraft (a free woman of color who founded a school for black girls, and later joined the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore);
  • Establishing a public memorial to the enslaved;
  • Creating a research institute on the legacy of slavery; and
  • Engaging with descendants of enslaved people once owned by the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, and offering them the same consideration given members of the Georgetown community in the admissions process.

Richard Cellini, an alumnus of Georgetown who has researched the slave sale, told “CBS This Morning” in July he estimates there are between 10,000 and 15,000 descendants of the 272 slaves sold living today.

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This picture from the Virginia side of the Potomac River shows Georgetown University atop the hill left-center in 1861

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2016 in Black History, BlackLivesMatter

 

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272 Slaves Were Sold To Keep Georgetown University Afloat in 1838

The Catholic Church held slaves in America (and perhaps elsewhere), and when the premiere Catholic College in the Americas got into financial trouble, the Jesuits organized the sale of 272 slaves to raise money to keep the School afloat. The Church also operated several plantations in southern Maryland to fund the School which used slave labor.

272 Slaves Were Sold to Save Georgetown. What Does It Owe Their Descendants?

The human cargo was loaded on ships at a bustling wharf in the nation’s capital, destined for the plantations of the Deep South. Some slaves pleaded for rosaries as they were rounded up, praying for deliverance.

But on this day, in the fall of 1838, no one was spared: not the 2-month-old baby and her mother, not the field hands, not the shoemaker and not Cornelius Hawkins, who was about 13 years old when he was forced onboard.

Their panic and desperation would be mostly forgotten for more than a century. But this was no ordinary slave sale. The enslaved African-Americans had belonged to the nation’s most prominent Jesuit priests. And they were sold, along with scores of others, to help secure the future of the premier Catholic institution of higher learning at the time, known today asGeorgetown University.

Now, with racial protests roiling college campuses, an unusual collection of Georgetown professors, students, alumni and genealogists is trying to find out what happened to those 272 men, women and children. And they are confronting a particularly wrenching question: What, if anything, is owed to the descendants of slaves who were sold to help ensure the college’s survival?

More than a dozen universities — including Brown, Columbia, Harvard and the University of Virginia — have publicly recognized their ties to slavery and the slave trade. But the 1838 slave sale organized by the Jesuits, who founded and ran Georgetown, stands out for its sheer size, historians say.

At Georgetown, slavery and scholarship were inextricably linked. The college relied on Jesuit plantations in Maryland to help finance its operations, university officials say. (Slaves were often donated by prosperous parishioners.) And the 1838 sale — worth about $3.3 million in today’s dollars — was organized by two of Georgetown’s early presidents, both Jesuit priests.

Some of that money helped to pay off the debts of the struggling college.

“The university itself owes its existence to this history,” said Adam Rothman, a historian at Georgetown and a member of a university working group that is studying ways for the institution to acknowledge and try to make amends for its tangled roots in slavery.

Although the working group was established in August, it was student demonstrations at Georgetown in the fall that helped to galvanize alumni and gave new urgency to the administration’s efforts.

The students organized a protest and a sit-in, using the hashtag #GU272 for the slaves who were sold. In November, the university agreed to remove the names of the Rev. Thomas F. Mulledy and the Rev. William McSherry, the college presidents involved in the sale, from two campus buildings.

An alumnus, following the protest from afar, wondered if more needed to be done.

That alumnus, Richard J. Cellini, the chief executive of a technology company and a practicing Catholic, was troubled that neither the Jesuits nor university officials had tried to trace the lives of the enslaved African-Americans or compensate their progeny.

Mr. Cellini is an unlikely racial crusader. A white man, he admitted that he had never spent much time thinking about slavery or African-American history.

But he said he could not stop thinking about the slaves, whose names had been in Georgetown’s archives for decades…

Broken Promises

There are no surviving images of Cornelius, no letters or journals that offer a look into his last hours on a Jesuit plantation in Maryland.

He was not yet five feet tall when he sailed onboard the Katharine Jackson, one of several vessels that carried the slaves to the port of New Orleans.

Photo

The ship manifest of the Katharine Jackson, available in full at the Georgetown Slavery archive, listed the name, sex, age and height of each slave transported to New Orleans in the fall of 1838. It showed that the cargo included dozens of children, among them infants as young as 2 months old…

.Read The Rest Here

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2016 in American Genocide, Black History

 

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