Georgetown University Takes Steps To Atone For Slave Ownership
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Georgetown University is apologizing for its past treatment of slaves. That includes a large sale of slaves to pay off the school's debts. Georgetown president John DeGioia is laying plans to make amends for that history at a town hall today. They include giving preferential admissions to the descendants of the slaves. NPR's Jennifer Ludden has the details.
JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: Georgetown's among more than a dozen universities that have acknowledged their role in slavery in recent years. A working group has spent a year trying to figure out how to make up for it. Its recommendations are not detailed, but giving slaves' descendants an advantage in the admissions process is believed to be a first.
AL BROPHY: Georgetown has now reset the standards for how universities should react to this.
LUDDEN: Al Brophy is with the University of North Carolina. Georgetown will also create a public memorial to the slaves on whose labor it relied, and it will open an institute to study slavery. Brophy says that shows the school's not just looking to the past but to the future.
BROPHY: What Georgetown as a central institution in American culture can do to repair the legacy of slavery more broadly...
DAVID COLLINS: We have a conviction that America's past related to slave holding has consequences for today.
LUDDEN: David Collins is a history professor at Georgetown and chaired the group that came up with the recommendations. He says the university also has something others don't - meticulous Jesuit record keeping of everyone it enslaved.
COLLINS: We know their names, when they were born and when they were married, when they had children, when they died and were buried.
LUDDEN: Those records include details on the sale of 272 slaves in 1838 to stave off bankruptcy. The slaves were shipped to a sugar plantation in Louisiana. This year, Maxine Crump learned that she had a great, great grandfather among them. He was just 13 years old at the time.
MAXINE CRUMP: Oh, my God, when I found out that the grave site is in the same cemetery of the church that I'd gone to all my life and never knew that it was there...
LUDDEN: This summer Georgetown president John DeGioia traveled down to Louisiana. He met Crump and dozens of other descendants at her home not far from the sugar plantation.
CRUMP: He got the full treatment of actually the experience of the land and the usual South Louisiana type of dinner - Jambalaya, pound cake, lemonade (laughter).
LUDDEN: Crump says DeGioia was a good listener. She is pleased with the university's announcement, though she would like to see it offer full scholarships to some descendants who want to attend. She'd also like the school to include all this history and more in its curriculum.
CRUMP: I would like to see Georgetown do the research on where slavery built America's economy and hold everyone accountable.
LUDDEN: She hopes that as Georgetown's president has said, today's apology is just the beginning. Jennifer Ludden, NPR News, Washington.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.