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Monday, August 29, 2016
Georgetown to Offer Priority Admission to Descendants of Slaves
Established in 1789, Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit institution of learning in the United States. A private research university, it is consistently ranked as one of the top colleges in the country and boasts distinguished alumni like former President Bill Clinton and deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
In 1838, the Jesuits in charge of running the university that would eventually become Georgetown, sold 272 African-American men, women and children to plantation owners in order to finance the school's continuing operation. This fact is not disputed.
For several months, the issue has been under discussion as university officials grappled with a way to effectively issue reparations. This week, it was announced that the school would offer preferential admission to all descendants of those 272 enslaved people-a number estimated to be between 12,000-15,000.
Following recent protests, the school removed plaques with the names of two of the Catholic priests responsible for the sales. The university has also announced plans to build a memorial for the 272 people, create an educational institute on slavery, and name several buildings on campus after African-Americans.
Because the Jesuits formally recorded the names of the 272 people, their descendants have been very traceable. The non-profit Georgetown Memory Project seeks to trace the lineage of the enslaved people in order to honor their "sacrifice and legacy". The project also strives to embed this story into ongoing education about slavery across U.S. history.
According to the New York Times, Georgetown is not the only university in the country to have benefitted financially from the labor and sale of enslaved people, but the well-documented sale of 272 people is unprecedented and undisputed.
Despite annual tuition of close to $50,000, the university has not announced whether financial aid will be part of the deal.
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