Descendants of Slaves Sold to Benefit Georgetown Call for a $1 Billion Foundation for Reconciliation

Susan Svrluga, Washington Post, September 9, 2016

A group of descendants of slaves sold by Jesuits in the 19th century to benefit Georgetown University called on both the university and Maryland Jesuits to do more to promote reconciliation after the horrors of slavery, asking to create a charitable foundation.

The descendants proposed a $1 billion foundation and announced that they had raised $115,000 in seed money, an amount equivalent to the 1838 sales price for the 272 people sold to pay off a debt. That amount is equivalent to about $3 million in today’s dollars.

Last week, Georgetown’s president announced that it would apologize for the university’s role in the slave trade, give an admissions preference to descendants of the 272 slaves, name two buildings in honor of those enslaved people and create a memorial. Georgetown was responding to a report from a group of faculty members, staff, students and alumni that examined the university’s historical ties to slavery.

But leaders of the nearly 600 descendants who signed on to the GU272 statement said they asked to be included in that panel but were not–and they called on the university and the Jesuits to do more for the public good.

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“We appreciate the gestures of a proposed memorial to our enslaved ancestors on Georgetown’s campus and President John DeGioia’s visits with some descendants, but recommendations developed without the meaningful participation of descendants can only be seen as preliminary,” Sandra Green Thomas, a descendant who helped develop the idea for the foundation, said in a statement Thursday.

“We viewed this as a prime opportunity for an institution that profited from slavery to join with the descendants of those enslaved to create a model for healing and redress in our nation,” Joseph Stewart, a lead organizer of the group, said in a statement. “Yet we firmly believe in the old saying that, ‘Nothing about us, without us.’ ”

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