Georgetown University will now be taking into account applicants who are descendants of enslaved people that were sold to fund the school, officials announced today (Thursday).
In a report from NPR the announcement comes after a working group was tasked to explore Georgetown’s historical ties to slavery, discovering that Jesuit priests connected to the private Catholic university sold 272 slaves to pay off its massive debts back in 1838. Those slaves which included men, women and children, were sent to plantations in Louisiana, while Georgetown received the equivalent of $3.3 million to secure its survival.
But apparently even more slaves might have been sold to keep the school alive, with the working group saying that much more research needs to be done to fill the gaps in the historical record.
As for solutions the working group calls for a formal apology from the university for the school’s “historical relationship with slavery,” as well as suggesting that Georgetown “grant the descendants of those owned by the Maryland Province an advantage in the admissions process.”
Now the school will be doing just that — treating the descendants of those enslaved people the same way it treats legacy students, applicants whose family members attended Georgetown.
The university will also be renaming two buildings (originally named after school presidents who made the arrangements to sell slaves to fund the school: one will become Isaac Hall, after one of the enslaved men who was sold in 1838, and another Anne Marie Becraft Hall, after a black educator and nun.
“We hope that the two buildings will stand as a reminder of how our University community disregarded the high values of human dignity and education when it came to the plight of enslaved and free African Americans in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,” the working group wrote in its report.
Although Georgetown did not mention anything about scholarships or financial aid for the descendants of the enslaved, this is still unprecedented where a university considers the enslavement of ancestors as part of the admissions process.