Georgetown University is looking to atone for its troubled history regarding slavery by offering preferential status in the admissions process to the descendants of 272 slaves who were sold in order to keep the university afloat, the New York Times reports.
According to the Times, the university's president, John J. DeGioia, is expected to discuss the move in a speech Thursday afternoon. DeGioia is also expected to give a formal apology and announce plans to form an institute for the study of slavery and erect a public memorial to all enslaved people—including those sold in 1838—whose work benefited Georgetown.
The university will also be renaming two campus buildings that had been named after the Revs. Thomas F. Mulledy and William McSherry, the college presidents involved in the 1838 sale.
Now the buildings will be named Isaac Hall—in memory of one of the enslaved men who were sold—and Anne Marie Becraft Hall—in memory of a black 19th-century educator who founded a school for black girls.
“We know we’ve got work to do, and we’re going to take those steps to do so,” DeGioia told the Times Wednesday. “It needs to be a part of our living history."
According to the Times, the 1838 sale was worth about $3.3 million in today's currency. Some of the profit, about $500,000, was used to help pay off the university's debts when it was going under financially. The enslaved people were taken from Maryland plantations and shipped to estates in Louisiana, the Times reports.
A historian with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Craig Steven Wilder, said that he did not know of any other universities that offered admissions advantages to the descendants of slaves.
Read more at the New York Times.