Georgetown University renames buildings for enslaved people

Remigio Civitarese
Aprile 21, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Georgetown University is set to rename two buildings on campus in honor of people who were sold as slaves in Maryland in 1838.

Yesterday (April 18), the university held a ceremony to apologize for its role in the slave trade.

"Today the Society of Jesus, who helped establish Georgetown University and whose leaders enslaved and mercilessly sold your ancestors, stands before you to say that we have greatly sinned, in our thoughts and in our words, in what we have done, and what we have failed to do", said the reverend. Several of them appear in the video above, talking about their ancestral ties to the university. The Rev. Timothy Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, addressed more than 100 descendants of slaves during a formal "contrition" liturgy and sought their forgiveness.

"We are profoundly sorry - it is our very enslavement of another, our very ownership of another, culminating in the tragic sale of 272 women, men, and children that remains with us to this day, trapping us in an historic truth, for which we implore mercy and justice, hope and healing", he further lamented.

Officials also permanently renamed two buildings.

Jesuit Father Thomas Mulledy, as Georgetown president, authorized the transaction, and Jesuit Father William McSherry also was involved in the 1838 sale and in other slave sales.

Hawkins was the first enslaved person listed in the 1838 sale document.

One building was named after Anne Marie Becraft, who taught the Catholic faith to black girls in the University.

After the ceremony, Georgetown's Black Movements Dance Theatre performed. She went on to become one of the nation's first Black nuns.

Sandra Green Thomas, a descendant of the Harris and Ware families and president of the GU272 Descendants Association, spoke at length at the liturgy about the 272 enslaved people, her ancestors and her Catholic faith. "Our history has shown us that the vestiges of slavery are a continuum that began with the kidnapping of our people from our motherland to keeping them in bondage with the brutality of American chattel slavery, Jim Crow, segregation ... the school-to-prison pipeline and the over-incarceration of people of color".

Karran Harper Royal, a descendant of the Queen and Mahoney families, thanked Georgetown for its steps toward acknowledging its ties with slavery, particularly the students who took their concerns about the university's history to the administration in 2015.

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