A Jesuit statue is seen in front of Freedom Hall, formerly named Mulledy Hall, on the Georgetown University campus on Sept. 1, 2016, in Washington, D.C.  (Jacquelyn Martin/AP Images)
A Jesuit statue is seen in front of Freedom Hall, formerly named Mulledy Hall, on the Georgetown University campus on Sept. 1, 2016, in Washington, D.C. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP Images)

As reported by The Root when the story first broke, the storied academic institution of Georgetown owes its entire existence to the sale of enslaved black men, women and children. In 1838 the sale of these humans by Jesuit priests saved the school from bankruptcy; to this day, it remains a thriving academic institution, thick with a rich endowment.


And although Georgetown has apologized and even offered an admissions advantage to the descendants of the 272 slaves it sold (talk about a “legacy” edge), some of those descendants are saying that it’s not nearly commensurate to what their ancestors gave the school.


Georgia Goslee, lead counsel for the GU272 Isaac Hawkins Legacy group, which includes 200 people, says that her clients “do not believe Georgetown has fully atoned for the wealth it unjustly accumulated off the back of unpaid slave labor,” according to the Washington Post.

The GU272 Isaac Hawkins Legacy group has asked for a direct benefit for descendants. The Post reports that Thomas Craemer, an associate professor at the University of Connecticut, helped the group calculate its request for restitution, based on the idea that forced labor created wealth for others rather than the enslaved people. He also said that descendants would otherwise have inherited money earned through their foreparents’ wages and interest.

In other words, gimme the loot.


Georgetown spokesperson Meghan Dubyak recently said that the school has “taken initial steps” to right the wrong, including making a formal apology, renaming two buildings and giving the admissions advantage. It has also offered professional-level genealogy for the offspring of the original slaves.

Georgetown’s president, John DeGioia, doesn’t seem to want to really discuss the “r” word (i.e., “reparations”) and has already proposed making amends that are linked to education, even partnering with HBCUs.


But given that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of black people now have college degrees, yet just a fraction of the wealth white Americans do, I’m for the cash, jack.

And 70-year-old Dee Taylor, a direct descendant of Isaac Hawkins, for whom the university recently named a building, agrees, saying, “I believe Georgetown has the means to do much more.”


Georgetown, for its part, says it wants to continue the “dialogue” with these descendants of those original 272 persons.

However, Goslee responded: “Dialogue is always a good thing. But we can talk forever while the descendants are languishing, literally dying and in poor health and suffering from the vestiges of slavery. ... If there is real genuine concern, let’s take action.”


Taylor said that she broke down crying when she read the bill of sale for a 10-year-old boy who was sold to Louisiana during the 1838 sale. “He was on the bottom of the ship. It was wet. It was damp. It was cold,” she said.

“I have a 12-year-old grandson,” she continued. “When I look at him and I think about that 10-year-old little boy ... I’m a mother. I’m a grandmother. I’m a great-grandmother. I can just see those babies on that ship crying, with their mothers shackled, or left behind. ... I feel their pain and grief, knowing they would never see each other again.”


She has questions. Namely, “How, in the name of Jesus, could the church I grew up in commit such a hideous sin and bury the truth for so many years?”

Also, “How can Georgetown, which owes its existence to these ancestors, claim genuine atonement when descendant families were not at the table when recommendations for making amends were offered, discussed and chosen?”


She finally adds, “They need to make it right, plain and simple.”

Read more at the Washington Post.

Ms. Bronner Helm is the Senior Editorial Director at Colorlines. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.

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