Georgetown University will give admissions preferences to descendants of the 272 slaves whose sale was used to pay debts at the school in 1838, the school’s president announced Thursday morning. The relevant individuals will be given admissions priority akin to that which exists for children and grandchildren of school alumni.
Details on how the program will work—such as how all the descendants will be identified and informed of their status—haven’t been released, but President John DeGioia has already met with a number of descendants in Washington state and Louisiana. Georgetown’s statement says the school “intends to engage descendants both on campus and in the cities and communities where they live.”
Officials at Georgetown, a Jesuit Catholic school, organized the 1838 sale of slaves who worked at a Jesuit-run plantation in Maryland and used a portion of the proceeds to pay school debts.
The school is one of several institutions of higher learning that have recently conducted official reckonings with their historical connections to slavery; the admissions program will be accompanied by other acknowledgements of the school’s role in America’s slave economy, including a “Mass of Reconciliation” and the renaming of a campus building as Isaac Hall to honor one of the enslaved men who was sold.