The Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation Initiative has developed as the understanding of Georgetown's role in slavery has deepened and received greater attention from the general public. This timeline shows the impact of student and descendant activism upon the academic and reconciliation initiatives of Georgetown University and the Society of Jesus.
Provincial Leader Explores History of Plantations and Slavery - Joseph Zwingé, S.J., Procurator of the Maryland-New York Province, published "The Jesuit Farms: Facts and Anecdotes," the first of a series of articles published in The Woodstock Letters (vols. 39-43) that explored the history of the Jesuit plantations in Maryland, including the enslavement of Black individuals to support the missions of the Maryland Province.
Despite the racism that permeates his articles, Father Zwingé had deeply studied the documentation of these plantations. His arrangement and description of these records form the genesis of the Archives of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, the principal documentation of Jesuit enslavement available today. His articles are available in The Woodstock Letters, a digital collection that is part of the Portal to Jesuit Studies, Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies at Boston College.
Anniversary History Discusses Slavery at Georgetown College - The Georgetown University Press published The Bicentennial History of Georgetown University by R. Emmett Curran. A three-volume work commissioned to mark the 200th anniversary of the university, Curran includes an extensive discussion of the role of the Jesuit plantations in financing Georgetown College, the debates regarding slavery among the Jesuits, and the role of the 1838 sale in allaying the debt of Georgetown.
Digital Humanities Project Explores Jesuit Plantations and Slavery - The Department of American Studies launched the Jesuit Plantation Project, an early digital humanities project that provided a platform for reproductions of documents related to enslavement. The website became an important resource for students and faculty interested in slavery on the plantations of Maryland. Georgetown University maintained this site until 2012.
Student Commentary on Georgetown’s Relationship to Slavery - Matthew Quallen (SFS '18) published the first of a series of articles, "Georgetown Financed by Slave Trading" in The Hoya (September 26,2014). Using archival and secondary sources, Quallen investigated the University's role in slavery, particularly the mass sale of people enslaved by the Jesuits on four of their Maryland plantations in 1838. His articles raised pointed questions about memorialization on campus -- particularly residences named for Thomas Mulledy, S.J., and William McSherry, S.J., who advocated for and executed the 1838 sale.
Working Group to Advise on the Acknowledgment of Historical Relationship to Slavery - President John J. DeGioia appointed the Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation, chaired by David Collins, S.J. President DeGioia charged the Working Group to "provide advice and recommendations on how best to acknowledge and recognize Georgetown’s historical relationship with the institution of slavery; examine and interpret the history of certain sites on our campus, to include Mulledy Hall; and convene events and opportunities for dialogue."
Descendants’ Organization Formed - Richard Cellini (C '86) established the Georgetown Memory Project to identify descendants of the people sold by the Jesuits.
Students Protest the Memorialization of Architects of 1838 Sale - Students staged a sit-in outside President DeGioia's office, an action that prompted the President and Board of Directors to accept Working Group's recommendation to change the names of buildings that memorialized the two Jesuits who led the 1838 sale by the Maryland Province. As the Working Group deliberated this change, Mulledy Hall became Freedom Hall and McSherry Hall became Remembrance Hall.
Teach-Ins Held - The Working Group distributed a pamphlet, "What We Know: Georgetown University and Slavery" and followed up with a teach-in to encourage the campus conversation about Georgetown University’s historical relationship to slavery and the August 2015 murder of Thomas Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Statement on Racial Injustice Envisions Academic Institute - In an address on racial injustice to the Georgetown community, President DeGioia charged a working group with developing an interdisciplinary department and research center to address the causes and impact of racial injustice.
Digital Project on the Role of Slavery at Georgetown Launched - The Georgetown Slavery Archive (GSA) was launched by the Archives Subgroup of the Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation. Edited by Adam Rothman, Professor of History, the GSA is a digital repository of documents that demonstrate the role of slavery in the development of Georgetown College and the Maryland Province. The GSA is continually updated as new materials are identified and processed.
New York Times Story Draws Global Attention to Georgetown’s Truth and Reconciliation Efforts - Rachel Swarns published "272 Slaves Were Sold to Save Georgetown. What Does It Owe to Their Descendants?" (The New York Times, April 16, 2016), the first of a series of articles in The New York Times addressing the facts of the 1838 sale, the stories of their descendants, and the question of reparations as part of the reconciliation process.
African American Studies Established as a Major Area of Study - Georgetown's Board of Directors approved a new Department of African American Studies. African American Studies was founded as an interdisciplinary program in 2003.
Descendants Organization Formed - GU272 descendants dedicated the GU272 Descendants Association to honor the people sold by the Jesuits in 1838, unite their descendants, promote aspirations of family and community with programming and fundraising, and establishing mutually beneficial relationships with the GU272 Foundation, Georgetown University, the Society of Jesus, and other organizations recognizing the GU272
Working Group Recommendations Accepted - On September 1, President DeGioia publicly accepted the Report of the Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation, which proposed new academic initiatives and addressed memorialization on campus and in the neighborhood of Georgetown. President DeGioia announced that descendants would have "legacy status" in admissions, the same advantage conferred to children of alumni.
At that event, GU272 descendant Joseph Stewart challenged him and other members of the Georgetown community to include descendants in the process of reconciliation: "Nothing about us, without us."
Grant to Promote the Study of Racial Justice - The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded Georgetown a $1.5 million grant to assist in establishing a center for racial justice, hiring faculty experts in the field, supporting postdoctoral and graduate fellows, and funding a series of visiting lecturers.
Georgetown and Jesuits Apologize for Participation in Slavery - Georgetown held a Liturgy of Remembrance, Contrition, and Hope in partnership with the Society of Jesus and the Archdiocese of Washington, at which the University and the Society of Jesus offered an apology for the 1838 sale of enslaved children, women, and men in the presence of the Georgetown community, including descendants of the GU272.
Following the Liturgy, Georgetown dedicated Isaac Hawkins Hall, named for the first person listed on the list of 272 people considered for sale in 1838, and Anne Marie Becraft Hall, named for a free Black woman who founded one of the first schools for black girls in Georgetown and later became one of America’s first Black nuns.
Descendants Petition Father General - Joseph Stewart, co-founder and chair of the GU272 Descendants Association, submitted a petition on May 7 to Arturo Sosa, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus, that proposed a partnership between the descendants, the Jesuits, and a social advocacy organization to consider new visions for reconciliation. The petition also asked for a full investigation into the economic, social, and pastoral consequences of the 1838 sale and detailed the unresponsiveness of the Maryland, Central and Southern Provinces.
Father General Responds to Descendants - Father General Arturo Sosa's June 20 response to the petition acknowledged the ongoing harm of Jesuit enslavement and referred the GU272 Descendants Association to the Jesuit provincials of the United States and the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States.
Framework for Racial Justice Institute Established – University Provost Robert Groves announced searches for joint appointments between the Institute for Racial Justice and the following departments: School of Nursing, Department of Health System Administration; Georgetown College, Department of Performing Arts and Department of African American Studies; McCourt School of Public Policy; and the Georgetown Law Center.
Kellogg Foundation Supports Reconciliation Process - Representatives of the GU272 Descendants Association, the Jesuits, and Georgetown University began to use the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation framework developed by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to help these organizations develop an inclusive organization to establish a process for reconciliation.
Foundation Promotes Reconciliation - The GU272 Descendants Association, the President of the Jesuits Conference in the United States, and U.S. Provincials signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a $1 billion irrevocable trust and to form the Descendants Truth & Reconciliation Foundation, which seeks to address the harms created by slavery and racism. Georgetown subsequently provided $1 million to cover technical and start up costs for the foundation.
Grant Awarded for Teaching Incarcerated Students - Georgetown received a $1 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to expand the Georgetown Prison Scholars Program to Maryland and offer bachelor’s degrees.
Georgetown Responds to Police Brutality - After the murder of George Floyd and other unarmed Black people by police, President DeGioia issued a statement “Confronting Racism” where he reaffirmed Georgetown's academic commitment to addressing racial injustice. The University subsequently hosted several forums and events to support racial justice.
Juneteenth Celebrated - President DeGioia announced Juneteenth as a University holiday for 2020 and annually in the future. The University has since promoted historical memory and other programs Honoring Juneteenth.
Racial Justice Institute Established - Georgetown announced the appointment of the founding leaders of the Racial Justice Institute (RJI), which fulfilled the vision described by President DeGioia in September 2016:
- Robin Lenhardt, Georgetown Law Center
- Derek M. Griffith, School of Nursing
- Anita Gonzalez, Georgetown College, Department of Performing Arts and Department of African American Studies
- Evelyn Patterson, McCourt School of Public Policy (appointed in 2023)
Jesuits Support Reconciliation Fund - The Society of Jesus pledged $100 million to the Descendants Truth & Reconciliation Foundation and made its first gift of $10 million towards this goal.
Scholars and Descendants Interested in Universities and Slavery Convene - Georgetown University hosted the Universities Studying Slavery consortium for a virtual conference, on April 15 and April 16. The conference was held in conjunction with Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia, which marks the April 16, 1862 signing of the D.C. Compensated Emancipation Act.
Partnership with HBCU - Georgetown commenced a five-Year Partnership with Southern University system to partner on interdisciplinary programming, research and training. Southern University is a historically Black university system with five campuses in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport.
First Grants by Reconciliation Fund - The Reconciliation Fund awarded its first grants for the following: programs that created connections among Southern Maryland Descendants; legal services to New Orleans residents with mental health issues; engagement of young adults to build affordable homes in New Orleans; educational programming at a community center in Maringouin, Louisiana; and a mentoring partnership between Georgetown and Maringouin students.
Georgetown Center Promotes the Study of Slavery - Georgetown formally launched The Center for the Study of Slavery and Its Legacies. Headed by Professor of History Adam Rothman, the Center will develop courses for faculty, sponsor programs for students, faculty, GU272 descendants, and the broader public.
Georgetown and Jesuits Support Foundation - Georgetown University and the Society of Jesus announced a milestone gift of $27 million to the Descendants Truth & Reconciliation Foundation, with $10 million coming from Georgetown and $17 million from the Jesuits.
Required Course on Race, Power, and Justice Introduced - The University initiates a pilot program: the teaching of "University Seminar on Race, Power, and Justice" to prepare for a 1-credit course that will be required of all entering freshmen beginning in September 2024. This course will be partial fulfillment of the "Pathways to Social Justice" requirement in the core curriculum.