Georgetown University has taken an unprecedented approach to making amends for their role in America’s slave history.
The D.C.-based university announced Thursday that they would begin offering preferential treatment to descendants of slaves who were once sold by the school in order to pay down a debt in 1838.
Unlike applicants who apply to the university with no known ties, these “Georgetown community members” will get “an extra look” when applying and their relationship to the university will be taken into account when reviewing their application.
“We cannot do our best work if we refuse to take ownership of such a critical part of our history,” said Georgetown President John DeGioia at the school’s press conference. “We must acknowledge that Georgetown participated in the institution of slavery.”
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Named among the top universities in the United States, Georgetown, much like many other U.S. universities, participated and benefited from the institution of slavery. But President DeGioia is working to reconcile and rectify the school’s past.
Last year, President DeGioia convened the Working Group of Slavery, Memory and Reconciliation — a 16-member board compromised of students, staff and alumni — tasked with recommending how the school could begin to engage with its complicated history as a Jesuit university that participated in slavery.
That group produced a report that gave way to the reconciliation efforts put forth by the university today.
In addition to the admissions treatment for descendants, the university has created a historical digital archive detailing the personal information of each of the 272 slaves sold by the school. The university also intends to build a memorial to honor those slaves and rename two buildings named after the presidents who facilitated the sale.