Georgetown University renames buildings for enslaved people

FILE - In this Sept. 1, 2016, file photo, students walk past a Jesuit statue in front of Freedom Hall, center, formerly named Mulledy Hall, on the Georgetown University campus, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, in Washington.

One was named for Isaac Hawkins, whose name appeared at the head of the bill of sale, and a second was dedicated to Anne Marie Becraft, a black 19th-century educator.

Georgetown President John DeGioia said at the religious service, which included slave descendants, that the school had been complicit in the United States' "original sin" of slavery. She later joined the Oblate Sisters of Providence.

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Jesuit Father Thomas Mulledy, as Georgetown president, authorized the transaction, and Jesuit Father William McSherry also was involved in the 1838 sale and in other slave sales. "We lay this truth bare - in sorrowful apology and communal reckoning".

On Tuesday, the Jesuit order of the university held a solemn ceremony of remembrance with over 100 descendants of slaves at Gaston Hall.

The university also hosted a dinner and private vigil for the descendants and took them on a tour of the plantation where their ancestors lived before the sale.

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"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 chattel slavery, Jim Crow, segregation ... the school-to-prison pipeline and the over-incarceration of people of color".

"Our work as a group was to help teardown the walls, the walls of mystery and silence and (the) unknown surrounding Georgetown's historical ties to the institution of slavery", said working group member Connor Maytnier (C'17) at the dedication.

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.

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"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. Becraft created a school for black girls in 1820 at Georgetown.

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