Georgetown announces steps to make amends for 1838 slave sale [CNA]

#1 D.C., Sep 6, 2016 / 11:51 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Nearly 200 years after hosting a slave sale on campus in order to pay off school debt, Georgetown University has announced its intention of making amends to the descendants of those impacted by the sale, as well as to the broader community.

Along with the Archdiocese of Washington and the Society of Jesus in the United States, Georgetown will offer a Mass of Reconciliation for the school’s actions.

The university will also give descendants of the slave sale preferential consideration, treating them with the same consideration as the children of faculty, staff and alumni.

Furthermore, the school will create a memorial to the people sold in the sale. It will rename two residence halls – originally named for the Jesuit priests who orchestrated the sale – after Isaac Hawkins, the first man sold in the 1838 sale, and Anne Marie Becraft, a local African American free woman from Washington D.C. who worked to found a school for African American girls and who later became a religious sister with the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore.

“This community participated in the institution of slavery,” said Georgetown University President John DeGioia in a September 1 presentation. “This original evil that shaped the early years of the republic was present here,” he continued. “We have been able to hide from this truth, bury this truth, ignore and deny this truth.”

But now, the president said, the Georgetown community must recognize its past actions and make amends for them. “As a community and as individuals, we cannot do our best work if we refuse to take ownership of such a critical part of our history. We must acknowledge it.”

Reconciliation efforts will be presented “within the framework of the Catholic tradition,” DeGioia stated. “Our moral agency must be channeled to undo this damage.”

The September 1 presentation described the findings of a recent report on Georgetown University’s relationship with slavery and the impact of those actions, along with recommendations for moving forward.

The 104-page report was compiled by a 16-member Working Group, which began its research efforts in September 2015. The group has also compiled a digital archive of historical documents relating to the sale and other slaves owned by the Maryland Province of the Jesuit order, held discussions with the Georgetown community, and reached out to the descendants of slaves sold in the 1838 sale.
Full article…


It seems more like a publicity stunt than an attempt at accomplishing anything. How many people can prove they’re descended from the specific slaves sold given the paucity of records from the time?

It’s sad to have to admit, but it appears that Leftist politics is by far the most significant influence on the modern Catholic Church.


Point to ponder: Kenneth Hamblin, retired conservative African-American radio talk show host, ‘controversially’ asked just how well those descendants would be doing today had their African tribal conquereors not sold them into foreign hands. Georgetown seems fearful of something.


The university will also give descendants of the slave sale preferential consideration, treating them with the same consideration as the children of faculty, staff and alumni.

They shouldn’t have preferential consideration for anyone.


While I agree that it may be difficult to ascertain who might truly be descended from those particluar slaves, I think the gesture is appreciated by most. Penance can be a good thing even if in this case few if any may take the school up on that aspect of the school’s efforts to try and make up for their earlier actions.

Statements like Kenneth Hamblin made can sometimes come off as a bit tone-deaf. After Hurricane Katrina some refugees from New Orleans were sent to Texas, former first lady Barbara Bush noted “And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.” For some that might have been a true statement, but it’s a bit callous and ignores the gravity of the situation.

The same thing is true here. I mean, would you want your children to be brutalized in the slave trade if it meant a possible better life for your grandchildren or great-grandchildren? That’s a very cold metric by which to measure these events.

On top of that we have to consider the actions of the school at the time, specifically how it (if wanting to be truly good) could have chosen a different option and freed the slaves within their possession. I don’t blame Georgetown for doing what it can to make up for those actions – even many years later.


I agree.


I agree with you on all points. I recall when Barbara Bush made that insensitive remark, and, while I generally admire her, I could hardly believe she said that. The same applies to the conservative African American talk-show host. It is not merely politically incorrect (which I normally don’t pay too much heed to) but callous.


You may not think so, but sometimes leftist politics has the upper hand, morally speaking.


I don’t think the descendants should have preferential treatment, but other than that, this is a good idea


Many colleges offer preferential treatment to children of alumni. Have you always been against that too?


Kind of an uncharitable comment about the leadership of Georgetown and their motivation, don’t you think? What evidence do you have that they are not sincere?


Which of the Georgetown leadership that implemented this was part of the group that authorized the sale?

This isn’t penance, it’s virtue signaling.


It’s common enough where an organization will offer an apology for something that organization did well after it was done and when none of the people in that orginzation were there when it occurred.

Here are 5 examples of the United States government apologizing for events decades after the fact.

Companies have apologized for things they’ve done in the past.

Pope John Paul II several times apologized for actions done by some in the Church long after they’ve been dead and buried.

I don’t know what you’re implying by the term “virtue signaling” but if that signal is Georgetown should not have owned slaves or been part of the slave trade those are very good virtues to signal.


I think a lot of people in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church would agree with you. I think it is a problem. The Church should be in the business of defending eternal truths, not embracing the latest political fashion.


What a great move by Georgetown. Good for them!


So, Georgetown is going to prevent some kids from going there in order to prefer some others. Neither group was around 200 years ago. The ones who won’t get in because of the preferential treatment did nothing wrong, and the ones who will get preferential treatment did nothing to deserve it or warrant it.

Just one more big “social justice show” gained at someone else’s expense. Typical.


Were you always this vocal about opposing preferential treatment for children of alumni?



My question is there ever a point we can just move on? Terrible things have happened to everyones ancestor. Everyone’s ancestor has been greatly wronged by someone else’s somewhere in history and has done something horrible to someone else. We can’t just be eternaly being angry about history when noone alive had anything to do with it.

Let’s just let everyone stand on their own merit instead of getting into college over someone else because you felt bad for what happened to my great great great grandfather. I would not what that kind of handout and I am sure they don’t eithier. Stop treating them like victims, treat them like brothers and sisters.


IMHO it should be merit based no matter who you’re mom and dad are.


It should be noted from the original article that the matter of preference toward the ancestors of those slaves the school sold is but one portion of the actions the school is doing. They will be holding a Mass of Reconciliation, creating a memorial for those sold, and renaming two of the residence halls after those sold.

Personally, I’d be okay as well if they did all them and left out the preferential treatment for the descendants (should any come forward); but I truly appreciate the sentiment in giving that treatment to the descendants since it’s both very tangible while at the same time personal.

As ucfengr mentioned earlier in the thread that it might be difficult to verify who truly is a descendant of those slaves sold by Georgetown. This pulls the argument in two directions where some say there can’t be those the school gives preference to while others says there will be and thus taking one or more positions away from other applicants.

I guess my question is apart from the part about giving preference to the slaves’ descendants does anyone here have any problems with the rest of the actions taken by school?

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