New Exhibition Reviews Four Centuries of the Maryland Province

Students and faculty of St. Peter Claver’s School photographed in front of the first bus used by the parochial school in 1927, two years after its establishment.

From Mission to Social Justice: Four Centuries of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus,” the newest exhibition on the Library’s fifth floor, explores the enduring legacy of the missions established by members of the Society of Jesus in Maryland in 1634. Correspondence, financial records, photographs, and other historical documents from the archives tell the story of the Maryland Province, from the Jesuits’ early efforts to meet the spiritual needs of the settlers to the modern day.

Georgetown’s Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation Initiative, established by Georgetown University in 2016, acknowledges the harmful legacy of enslavement, especially the sale of more than 272 people in 1838. But this initiative has its roots in social justice teachings that emerged in the late 19th century. As Catholic priests began to fight for the rights of workers, several Jesuits in Maryland advocated the end of racial segregation and promoted educational opportunities for Black parishioners. Opponents hostile to these efforts, including members of the Jesuit community, blocked the integration of churches in Southern Maryland until the mid-1960s.

The Descendants of those enslaved by the Jesuits (known as the GU272) and Black Catholics, whose faith remained steadfast in a segregated Catholic Church, now seek inclusion as the Jesuits confront the legacy left by a history of slavery and racism.

The exhibition is on display through January 31, 2023.