Slave Descendants Propose $1 Billion Foundation

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Georgetown University President John DeGioia
Georgetown University President John DeGioia

Leaders of a group of nearly 600 descendants of the 272 slaves infamously sold by Georgetown University to a plantation owner in Louisiana have proposed the creation of a $1-billion foundation in partnership with the university and the Jesuits of Maryland, where the slaves were working when sold. The foundation would be used to fund scholarships for the descendants and otherwise serve the greater good. The group said it has raised $115,000 in seed money, the amount the slaves were sold for in 1838.

The proposal follows Georgetown University’s recent attempts to come to terms with its ownership and sales of slaves. President John DeGioia has announced that the university will apologize for its actions and will engage directly with the descendants of the slaves, notably by giving them admission preference on par with relatives of Georgetown alumni, known as legacy admissions. DeGioia’s announcement stems from the Sept. 1 release of a report by the Working Group on Slavery, Memory and Reconciliation, established by DeGioia in August 2015 as public and student awareness of the school’s slave-trading past reached fever pitch.

Among the report’s recommendations was the renaming of university buildings that honor school leaders associated with the slave trade. Mulledy Hall would become Isaac Hall, named for the first person listed in the 1838 sale agreement, and McSherry Hall would become Anne Marie Becraft Hall, after a Catholic sister with deep family roots in Georgetown.

The report also recommended a formal apology, increased direct engagement with the descendants, ending anonymity of the enslaved through public memorials listing their names outside the renamed halls and on other campus memorials and plaques, creation of an Institute for the Study of Slavery and Its Legacies, engagement with the whole university to address slavery’s direct and indirect legacy and investment in diversity, which the announced admission advantage and the proposed foundation would help fulfill.

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