http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/images/size340/Georgetown_University_Credit_ehpien_via_Flickr_CC_BY_NC_ND_20_filter_added_CNA.jpgWashington 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 The group has also compiled a digital archive of historical documents relating to the sale and other slaves owned by the Maryland Province of the Jesuit order, held discussions with the Georgetown community, and reached out to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.