Atoning for Slavery Ties, Georgetown University Renames Buildings

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On April 18, Georgetown University held a Liturgy of Remembrance, Contrition and Hope, performing more penance for its 1838 sale of slaves owned by the Maryland Jesuits, which directly benefited the finances of the fledging college. Following the moving liturgy in Gaston Hall in the school’s landmark Healy Building, mea culpas were offered at the dedications of newly renamed buildings in the Quadrangle near Dahlgren Chapel.

The two buildings, which once bore the names of the 19th-century Jesuit priests who managed the deal that sent 272 slaves from Maryland to Louisiana, were renamed for former slaves: Isaac Hawkins, whose name is shown at the top of the bill of sale, and Anne Marie Becraft, a freed African American woman who founded a school for Catholic black girls in Georgetown.

At the Gaston Hall ceremony, attended by descendants of the slaves sold off by the university, its president, John DeGioia, said the school — like others on the East Coast — participated in America’s “original sin,” slavery. “We offer this apology for the descendants and your ancestors humbly and without expectations, and we trust ourselves to God and the Spirit and the grace He freely offers to find ways to work together and build together,” DeGioia said.

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