Georgetown University, Jesuits apologize for roles in sale of slaves

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Georgetown University, Jesuits apologize for roles in sale of slaves

In partnership with the Archdiocese of Washington and the Society of Jesus in the United States, Georgetown University renamed two buildings on its campus on April 18 in honor of the 272 enslaved men, women and children sold by Maryland Jesuits in 1838.

Mulledy Hall was renamed as Isaac Hawkins Hall, after the first enslaved person listed in documents related to the 1838 sale, according to the university. The Rev. Timothy Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, addressed more than 100 descendants of slaves during a formal "contrition" liturgy and sought their forgiveness.

"Today the Society of Jesus, which helped to establish Georgetown University and whose leaders enslaved and mercilessly sold your ancestors, stands before you to say: We have greatly sinned, in our thoughts and in our words, in what we have done and in what we have failed to do", Kesicki was quoted as saying.

Becraft later joined the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the oldest active Roman Catholic sisterhood in the Americas established by women of African descent. These halls were formerly named for two Jesuits involved in the 1838 sale to Louisiana plantation owners.

In September 2016, in response to the report, university president John J. DeGioia issued a statement apologizing for the academic institution's involvement in slavery and offered to provide admission.

Karran Harper Royal, another descendant, thanked Georgetown for its steps toward acknowledging its ties with slavery, particularly the students who took their concerns about the university's history to the administration in 2015.

"The actions of Georgetown students have placed all of us on a journey together toward honoring our enslaved ancestors by working toward healing and reconciliation", she said.

Their descendants gathered on the Georgetown campus for a dedication ceremony Tuesday. Becraft created a school for black girls in 1820 at Georgetown.

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.

"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.

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