Rev. Timothy Kesicki, S.J
Category: University News

Title: Georgetown Apologizes for 1838 Sale of More Than 270 Enslaved, Dedicates Buildings

A Journey Together

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.

“The actions of Georgetown students have placed all of us on a journey together toward honoring our enslaved ancestors by working toward healing and reconciliation,” she said. “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 chattle slavery, Jim Crow, segregation … the school-to-prison pipeline and the over-incarceration of people of color.”

Understanding and Rebirth

Jessica Tilson, an Isaac Hawkins descendant, presented DeGioia last summer with a jar of soil from the West Oak Plantation in Louisiana where her ancestors toiled.

During an afternoon Tree Ceremony and Libation Ritual for Ancestors the soil was spread over the roots of a white oak tree, chosen because the tree is indigenous to both Maryland and Louisiana.

“To me, for them to say they’re sorry and then for them to publically announce what they did to my ancestors, I’m happy,” Tilson said.

Members of the descendant and Georgetown communities read the names of the men, women, and children sold in 1838.

White lilies, which appear on theshield of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, were planted at the base of the tree to symbolize rebirth.

After the ceremony, Georgetown’s Black Movements Dance Theatre performed.

“This is a moment for all of us to more deeply understand our history, and to envision a new future informed and shaped by our past and the values we uphold,” DeGioia said at the building dedication.

Members of the community descended from people enslaved by the Maryland Jesuits with Jesuits from Georgetown and the Maryland Province with Maryland Province Jesuits and Georgetown Jesuits onstage in Gaston Hall with Jesuit speaking at podium

“The ability to transcend the realities of this life in this country has been a necessary tool in the survival kit of my people … I believe that their Catholic faith enabled them to transcend. No matter how incongruous their existence was with the gospel of God’s love and protection, they clung to their faith.”

Sandra Green Thomas