Georgetown U. lay president promises to ‘make amends’ for school’s Jesuit role in slave trade

Georgetown U. lay president promises to ‘make amends’ for school’s Jesuit role in slave trade

JUNE 24, 2016

Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia has promised a “vigorous” and “wide-ranging” response to help rectify his school’s role in the American slave trade.

One hundred seventy-eight years ago, the college had sold 272 slaves. The monetary value of these transactions equals $3.5 million today.

“This is an important moment in the life of our university,” DeGioia said. “I don’t think putting a plaque on the wall is going to be an answer.”

Part of the actual “answer” was announced by DeGioia in February: more faculty in the African-American studies and establishment of “a research center focused on racial injustice.”

Back in November of last year, the names of two past college presidents “who organized or played an advisory role in the sale of the slaves” were removed from campus buildings.

The Washington Post reports:

DeGioia said he recently received a draft report from the university’s “Working Group on Slavery, Memory and Reconciliation,” a panel of administrators, faculty and students formed last year to study the issue.

[He] plans to travel to Louisiana next week to meet with descendants of the slaves to hear their views. Last week he met with another descendant, Patricia Bayonne-Johnson, in Spokane, Wash.

“We knew our history, but we had not appropriated it,” he said. “It was not alive in us.”

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3 comments on “Georgetown U. lay president promises to ‘make amends’ for school’s Jesuit role in slave trade

  1. [Another Jesuit institution of higher ed also does the latest politically-correct thing]

    Cutting ties with inglorious past an institutional dilemma

    Clive McFarlane
    Worcester Telegram

    The politically and racially correct Clive McFarlane, who wrote the article

    The politically and (according to Spanky, as the local politically-incorrect call him) racially INcorrect Bishop James Healy, who (like the current POTUS) was a mulatto but passed for white

    In November, the College of the Holy Cross convened a committee to review its “history in relation to our identity and mission today,” which is the academic approach to deciding whether the college should continue naming a residence hall after Rev. Thomas Mulledy, a past president who had sold slaves to profit the Jesuit institution in 1837.

    Faced with the same question around the same time, Georgetown University, where Rev. Mulledy also served as a president, renamed its residence hall.

    Holy Cross appeared to have arrived at a more solomonic resolution. In a report summarizing the committee’s review of the issue, Holy Cross president, the Rev. Philip Boroughs, said he was recommending his board of trustees rename Mulledy Hall the Brooks-Mulledy Hall.

    Rev. John E. Brooks, of course, is well known for his efforts as a faculty member to integrate the college in the 1960s and for his decision as president to open the institution to female students.

    “While the committee found no consensus on the issue of keeping or changing the name of Mulledy Hall, I believe how we move forward needs to signal a new consciousness regarding our past connection to slavery, as well as a heightened obligation to continue to reflect on our institutional history and to continue our unfinished work in engaging racial differences on our campus,” Rev. Boroughs explained in the report on the review committee’s deliberations he released last week.

    Renaming Mulledy Hall the Brooks-Mulledy Hall combines “the best of both instincts,” he said.

    Rev. William Campbell, vice president for mission who chaired the review commission, agrees. He believes the committee’s work and Rev. Boroughs’ recommendation promote reconciliation and redemption, both of which are necessary in respecting “the nuance of our story.”

    Rev. Mulledy’s decision to sell 272 slaves from four estates of the Maryland Jesuit Province to pay down a Georgetown debt and to create an endowment that later benefited Holy Cross must be acknowledged, and keeping his name on the residence hall is one way to keep alive the college’s past connection to slavery, Rev. Campbell believes.

    “By keeping the name attached, we keep before us the brokenness and sinfulness of our lives,” he said.

    The committee also saw Rev. Mulledy, Holy Cross’ first president, as someone who came to understand “the implications of what he had done,” and sought forgiveness, Rev. Campbell said.

    In his report on the review committtee’s deliberation, Rev. Campbell said Rev. Mulledy’s redemptive actions following his sale of the slaves (many families were split up as a result) prompted some committee members to prefer retaining the name Mulledy Hall as a means to educate the community about the college’s past.

    The report said “many” felt changing the name would risk “the potential erasure of the fact that Holy Cross benefited from slavery and the slave trade, a story that is essential to acknowledge and remember as we seek to live out our institutional mission.”

    Others, however, wanted the name removed “to make our physical plant more consistent with our stated institutional values.”

    The committee also considered and decided against renaming Healy Hall, a residence named after the Rev. James A. Healy, the son of a white plantation owner and an enslaved female of mixed race.

    Known today as the first black Catholic bishop in the United States, Rev. Healy spent his life passing as white, and according to the report, was “critical of radical Republicans seeking to promote black equality.”

    He was relevant to the discussion because in settling his father’s estate his siblings sold the slaves they inherited, the proceeds from which benefited Holy Cross. Rev. Healy is said to have also purchased two slave women, although his motive for doing so is unknown.

    The committee sought responses on its name-change consideration from the Holy Cross community, including faculty and former students.

    Some 125 individual responses were received spanning a range of views. A faculty member said, for example, “People who accomplished great things, for their country or just for Holy Cross, need to be judged on the basis of their overall accomplishments, not for participating in a deeply regrettable but widely accepted practice of their time.”

    A member of the class of 1982, countered that “The College needs to acknowledge its past by apologizing for the actions of these men who once represented us, not place them in a lofty place of honor on our campus.”

    These varying views speak to the danger of keeping the names of the residence halls in place and the disappointment it will be to some. While it might spur conversations and opinions about Rev. Mulledy’s and Rev. Healy’s betrayal of their humanity, it doesn’t reject or condemn that betrayal, not with the certitude removing the names would carry.

  2. While historical issues of over a century and a half ago are being addressed, why don’t they name the buildings in question after the Irish Catholics who fought and died at Antietam and Gettysburg in the Irish Regiment in the Union Army during the Civil War? No, they don’t want to mention those Irish Catholics…. Who should pay reparations to them?

  3. I guess we’ll have to wait 178 years for an apology for the millions of children murdered in the womb.

    These people are freakin nuts.

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