Former slave-trading Georgetown University should offer reparations to descendants, report says

The University is expected to issue an apology for its role in slavery. © Jonathan Ernst
Georgetown University should compensate for its dark history by offering reparations to the descendants of slaves sold by two of the school’s former presidents, a panel recommended Thursday.

Two Jesuit priests who headed the private Washington, DC university sold 272 slaves in 1838 for a price of $115,000 ($3.3 million today).

Last year, current president John DeGioia commissioned the report released Thursday and is expected to offer a formal apology, according to the New York Times.

“An outright apology is not yet part of the history for the University. It ought to be,” the report says.

It also recommends engaging with descendants of the people owned by the Maryland Jesuits, including “fostering genealogical research to help descendants explore their family histories.”

“Exploring the feasibility of admission and financial aid initiatives that might be established for the descendant community,” the report notes.

Preferential treatment for descendants of those sold into slavery is to be considered in Georgetown - and if the report’s recommendations are carried out, it would go beyond the responses from other slave-trading universities such as Brown in Rhode Island, Harvard in Massachusetts, and the University of Virginia, which have yet to apologize.

Two buildings named after the priests involved in the sale of the slaves should be renamed, the report suggests, one after a slave sold by the university named Isaac and the other for Anne Marie Becraft Hall, who founded a school for African-American girls in Washington.

DeGioia told the Washington Post that he met with between 40 and 50 descendants of the Georgetown slaves in June.

He described the report as a “brilliant piece of work,” but did not immediately endorse all of its recommendations.

“I need to be able to bring along an entire community in this process,” he said.