Georgetown University apologizes for role in slave trade

William McSherry, respectively, former university presidents who were priests and supporters of the slave trade. Isaac Hawkins Hall is part of a residential complex that houses more than 140 students and a chaplain. and Canadian universities that are examining the history of slavery at their schools. WASHINGTON (RNS) The leader of the Catholic religious order that helped found Georgetown University addressed more than 100 descendants of slaves and sought their forgiveness. “It ought to be.”
Though Kesicki said he sought forgiveness from the slave descendants, he noted, “we have no right to it.”
Some of the descendants were ready to offer forgiveness, including Jeremy Alexander,  a university employee who recently learned he was related to some of the sold slaves. Anne Marie Becraft Hall at Georgetown University was named for a free black woman educator, on April 18, 2017. “An outright apology is not yet part of the history for the University,” the working group said in September. “I think that was a lot for them to take those steps to say that they were sorry publicly.”
But even with that willingness to “move forward with this healing process,” he said, “it’s not over” and society’s inequalities still need to be addressed. Timothy Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks
Previously, those buildings were named for the Rev. DeGioia, who also apologized during the ceremony, began visiting descendants in the summer, and the school created a department of African-American studies in June. “Today the Society of Jesus, which helped to establish Georgetown University and whose leaders enslaved and mercilessly sold your ancestors, stands before you to say: We have greatly sinned, in our thoughts and in our words, in what we have done and in what we have failed to do,” said the Rev. “There has to be ongoing meaningful conversation.”
The working group has recommended university officials meet with descendants and work toward greater diversity on the campus. The school had earlier announced it would award preferential status in the admissions process to descendants of the enslaved. On Tuesday (April 18), it apologized for its role in the slave trade during a formal “contrition” liturgy. In 2015, the buildings were temporarily named Freedom Hall and Remembrance Hall. Delores Williams Johnson of Union Park, Ill., and her great-niece Denise Neal of San Diego, two descendants of Isaac Hawkins, a slave sold by Maryland Jesuits, attended the ceremony at which a hall was renamed in his honor at Georgetown University on April 18, 2017. RNS photo by Adelle M. Georgetown has recently acknowledged it benefited from the sale of more than 250 slaves in 1838 to pay off its debts. In its report, the working group recommended that university and Jesuit officials apologize for its history related to slavery, calling it “a precondition for reconciliation” and an action that can lead to more debate and discussion. Thomas Mulledy and the Rev. Anne Marie Becraft Hall, the oldest building on campus, is a meditation center for students, staff and faculty. Georgetown President John J. In March, the university hosted a consortium of two dozen U.S. “Outreach and collaboration with the descendant community will continue over the months, years, and decades to come,” resolves a booklet distributed for the liturgy and dedication events. “I think in one sense it has taken a lot of effort on the descendants’ parts to push Georgetown and the Jesuits to acknowledge us and not dictate to us,” said Williams Johnson. “I am willing to forgive,” said Alexander, who works in the school’s Office of Technology and Commercialization. Banks
Two descendants of Isaac Hawkins, Delores Williams Johnson of Union Park, Ill., and her great-niece Denise Neal of San Diego, weren’t ready to forgive.