Georgetown University, the oldest Catholic institution of higher learning in the United States, will take a series of steps to atone for the role that slavery played in its early survival, including giving financial aid to the descendants of the slaves Georgetown sold away from their families to pay off debts.
Georgetown was founded by Jesuit priests in 1789, who relied on slave-holding Jesuit plantations in Maryland to finance operations. (At the time, the area in western Washington, D.C., was then part of Maryland.)
Georgetown President John J. DeGioia is expected to formally apologize for the university’s “historical relationship with slavery” and Georgetown will erect a public memorial to the slaves whose labor benefited it, according to The Washington Post.
Also, the university will create an institute for the study of slavery, and give preferential status in admissions to descendants of the slaves it once kept.
There are also plans for Georgetown to grant financial aid to the descendants of the slaves Maryland Jesuits owned, including a group of 272 slaves sold in 1838, in part to pay off the school’s debts. The sale, which generated $115,000, or the equivalent of $3.3 million today, sent the slaves to Louisiana plantations, separating families, The Post reported.
Specifically, the university will give the descendants the same advantage that it gives to faculty, staff and alumni.
Over the past few years, several top universities, including Harvard, Brown and the University of Virginia, have come to terms with their role in the slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries.
DeGioia, who assembled the working group last September, said on Wednesday that the USA is “still coping with our failure to address the original evil of slavery.”