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Georgetown Will Give Admissions Preferences to Descendants of Slaves It Sold

In an effort to atone for its profit off the sale of 272 slaves almost two centuries ago, Georgetown University will, among other things, give preferential treatment in the admissions process to descendants of those slaves, the university announced on Thursday morning.

The action emerged from a working group’s report on how the institution will reckon with its sale of those slaves. The New York Times reported this year that the university was beginning to seek out descendants of the slaves it sold in 1838 to put the institution on a more secure financial footing.

Among the other steps announced on Thursday, the university:

  • Will establish a new organization, the Institute for the Study of Slavery and Its Legacies, to continue work engaging with descendants of the enslaved.
  • Will rename a campus building, Freedom Hall, as Isaac Hall, after one of the slaves whose name was recorded. It will also rename Remembrance Hall for Anne Marie Becraft, who started a school for African-Americans in the Georgetown neighborhood in the 19th century.
  • Will create a public memorial to enslaved people.

“I am grateful to the many members of our community who have thoughtfully and respectfully contributed their perspectives and shared their insights,” wrote the university’s president, John J. DeGioia, in a letter that prefaced the university’s report on the matter. “I look forward to continuing to work together in an intentional effort to engage these recommendations and move forward toward justice and truth.”

The steps come as universities across the country, prodded by their students, struggle to come to terms with how they have benefited from, or honored, the institution of slavery.

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