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This is part of a new comprehensive atonement initiative to counter the university’s historical ties to slavery, NBC News reported. Ties that go back almost two centuries when the nation’s capital school sold 272 slaves to pay off their debt, the news site noted.
In addition to naming their admissions plan, Georgetown President John J. DeGioia made a public apology for the 1838 sale and highlighted other plans they have to acknowledge the institution’s role in institutional racism.
“Some descendants and their families have joined us in person and some have joined online, and it is with gratitude and humility that I recognize your presence,” DeGioiga said. “The most appropriate ways for us to redress the participation of our predecessors in the institution of slavery is to address the manifestations of the legacy of slavery in our time,” he wrote in a statement.
Apparently, he received a standing ovation for his public remarks, but there are some student activists who believe the Catholic Jesuit institution can take their efforts even further.
“We remain hopeful that we can forge a relationship with Georgetown that will lead to ‘real’ atonement,” Karran Harper Royal, an organizer of a group of descendants, said in an email to Reuters. Royal also hopes that this atonement plan will extend to scholarships for Black students and that the panel in charge of the initiative should have added it to their initial recommendations.
The atonement plan will also include renaming buildings that were once named for presidents who oversaw the 1838 sale to Freedom Hall for Isaac, one of the sold slaves, and Remembrance Hall for Anne Marie Becraft, an African-American teacher, Reuters noted.
“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 panel wrote in its report, NPR said.
Georgetown is creating a precedent, doing more than Harvard, Brown, Princeton and the University of North Carolina, who have acknowledged their university’s history with slavery, but have stopped at that, NBC noted.
Perhaps this is what the beginnings of reparations look like–and we are here for it.