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Georgetown works with slave descendants group amid demands for cash reparations

Group says university’s efforts thus far ‘symbolic’ and ‘insufficient’

Georgetown University leaders have done much in recent times to make amends for the institution’s involvement in slavery, but after a cadre of slave descendants recently said those efforts are not enough — they still want cash — campus leaders have pledged to continue to work “toward reconciliation.”

“Following many conversations and dialogue with members of the Descendant community, the University and the Jesuits earlier this month reached out to members of the Descendant community to propose a framework for long-term dialogue, partnership and collaboration,” a campus representative told The College Fix in an email.

“Georgetown and the Jesuits are committed to working with Descendants in a process that recognizes the terrible legacy of slavery and promotes racial justice,” the statement added. “Georgetown has been working to address its historical relationship to slavery and will continue to do so.”

“… We believe that this kind of collaborative, forward-looking approach is the best path toward reconciliation and responding to the challenges of racial injustice today.”

The “Descendant community” consists of families of more than 200 slaves whose sale nearly two centuries ago benefited Georgetown University.

So far in response to the group’s complaints, campus leaders have renamed two buildings, created a policy providing preferential admissions treatment to descendant applicants, and drawn up plans to establish an institute for the study of slavery, The Hoya reported.

But last month, members of the GU272 Isaac Hawkins Legacy group demanded that the school confront its “epic atrocity,” rebuking the university’s “symbolic gestures.” Its members called the university’s efforts thus far “insufficient.”

The group refuses to say how much money it seeks despite multiple requests from The College Fix seeking comment. The actor Danny Glover, who has advocated on behalf of the overall legacy group, also did not respond to requests for comment from The Fix. The GU272 Isaac Hawkins also declined to provide The Hoya with a copy of its rectification proposal.

According to The Hoya, an associate professor of public policy at the University of Connecticut helped the group calculate the amount of requested restitution by using “the impact that unpaid and forced labor would have had on the descendants’ ancestors ability to work and their subsequent incomes, as well as the inheritance that descendants could have received.”

Nearly two years ago, the overall Descendant community had also demanded a $1 billion scholarship fund from the university.

Campus leaders, in their statement to The College Fix, said working with the overall community amid these new cash demands continues a productive dialogue.

“Since 2015, Georgetown has been working to address its historical relationship to slavery and will continue to do so,” according to their statement. “Georgetown has taken initial steps to seek reconciliation, beginning with offering a formal apology to Descendants; renaming two buildings, including one for Isaac Hawkins, the first person named in the 1838 sale; and offering Descendants the same consideration in admissions that it gives members of the Georgetown community.”

“Since President DeGioia traveled to Louisiana in June 2016, Georgetown has met with many Descendants and heard many important ideas about how we might move forward together.”

MORE: Groups demand University of Chicago pay slavery reparations

MORE: Citing racial strife, students at wealthy colleges demand reparations

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About the Author
Ben Decatur -- University of Michigan