Georgetown University, Jesuits apologize for roles in sale of slaves

Georgetown University, Jesuits apologize for roles in sale of slaves

A year-and-a-half after students staged a sit-in to demand that Georgetown University rename buildings that bared the monikers of past university presidents who sold enslaved Black people to settle school debt, university officials honored that request.

FILE - In this Sept. 1, 2016, file photo, students walk past a Jesuit statue in front of Freedom Hall, center, formerly named Mulledy Hall, on the Georgetown University campus, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, in Washington. McSherry Hall is now named after Anne Marie Becraft, a teacher and free woman of color who established one of the first schools for black girls in the District of Columbia.

Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States president Rev. Timothy Kesicki said during a prayer service that the group has "greatly sinned" and is "profoundly sorry". Georgetown also said they will give admissions preference to the family members of the sold slaves. Mulledy Jr. and McSherry were both former university presidents in Jesuit plantations in Maryland and Louisiana.

Rev. Robert Hussey, S.J., Provincial of the Maryland Province, and DeGioia met with descendants in the afternoon.

Their descendants gathered on the Georgetown campus for a dedication ceremony Tuesday.

The Working Group on Slavery, Memory and Reconciliation produced a 104-page report detailing the university's involvement in the American slave trade. "Our history has shown us that the vestiges of slavery are a continuum that began with the kidnapping of our people from our motherland to keeping them in bondage with the brutality of American chattle slavery, Jim Crow, segregation ... the school-to-prison pipeline and the over-incarceration of people of color".

"To me, for them to say they're sorry and then for them to publically announce what they did to my ancestors, I'm happy", Tilson said.

One of Hawkins' descendants, Mary Williams-Wagner, said other efforts at reconciliation were still needed, such as identifying all descendants of the slaves sold by Georgetown.

White lilies, which appear on shield of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, were planted at the base of the tree to symbolize rebirth.

"This is a moment for all of us to more deeply understand our history, and to envision a new future informed and shaped by our past and the values we uphold", DeGioia said at the building dedication.