One Georgetown University employee recently found out that he was tied to the school by more than a paycheck.
Jeremy Alexander, an executive assistant in Georgetown’s Office of Technology Commercialization, recently found out that his paternal great-great-great-grandmother, Anna Mahoney Jones, was one of the hundreds of slaves sold by two Jesuit priests at Georgetown to save the school from bankruptcy, the New York Times reports.
“Now I work here—to realize that this is my history, this is my story, blows me away,” said Alexander. “I have been really emotional as I learned about my ties to the university.”
Although Alexander had his DNA tested in 2014, along with that of his wife and parents, like many African Americans, his search reached a dead end with the name of his great-grandmother Anna Jones—the granddaughter of Anna Mahoney Jones.
Last fall, however, the 45-year-old father of one heard from a woman from Boston, Melissa Kemp, who turned out to be a distant cousin. Kemp was able to go back two more generations and introduced Alexander to his connection to Georgetown: Anna Mahoney Jones.
She told him that Mahoney Jones was among the 272 slaves sold for about $3.3 million in today’s dollars to help Georgetown survive.
He told her that he actually worked at the university.
Genealogists working with the nonprofit the Georgetown Memory Project (started by Georgetown alum Richard J. Cellini) are trying to reconstruct comprehensive narratives of the 272 men, women and children and their descendants.
They found that Anna Mahoney Jones was born in 1811 and married Arnold Jones in the mid-1820s. Her husband escaped before he could be sold. Mahoney Jones and her two children (ages 6 and 9) were enslaved at the Chatham Plantation in rural Louisiana, on the west bank of the Mississippi River. Her name shows up again in the 1870 census as living in New Orleans, where she died four years later.
Judy Riffel, a genealogist, confirmed through archival records and DNA test results that Alexander was a descendant of Anna Mahoney Jones.
So far, about 4,000 of the descendants of the 272, both living and dead, have been identified.
The university has promised to give the descendants preferential admissions status at the school.
Read more at the New York Times.