Luncheon Hosted by GU President for the ABAA

Share this Post

On April 19, 2018, Georgetown University president, Dr. John J. DeGioia, hosted a luncheon at the university for members of the Association of Black American Ambassadors (ABAA). Dr. DeGioia spoke about Georgetown’s involvement in discussions around slavery, memory, and reconciliation, an issue that many universities and other institutions in the United States are currently struggling with.

Dr. John J. DeGioia, president of Georgetown University, speaks to ABAA members.

Georgetown’s involvement in this issue began in 1981, when it was learned that in 1838 a Jesuit priest associated with the university sold 272 slaves from a southern Maryland plantation belonging to the university. The information was included in the school’s history in 1989, and in 1990, Georgetown began offering a course in Jesuit slaveholding.

In 2015, when renovation of the Jesuit Community building adjacent to Healy Hall began, that the university realized that it needed to do more to deal with its past, as that building was named for the priest who was most intimately involved in the controversial sale. A working group was formed to study the issue, and involve the community, including students, faculty, and the descendants of those sold. Among the recommendations were, (1) an apology from Georgetown and the Jesuit order, (2) the same consideration given to legacy applicants to be given to descendants applying for admission to Georgetown, (3) renaming two buildings on campus that bore the names of two individuals involved in the sale.

The formal apology, attended by many descendants, was held on April 18, 2017; a Liturgy of Remembrance, Contrition, and Hope and the dedication of Isaac Hawkins Hall and Anne Marie Becraft Hall, the two buildings previously mentioned. Isaac Hawkins, DeGioia said, was the first name on the list of those sold, and transported to Louisiana, and Anne Marie Becraft was an African-American woman who was a trailblazing educator and Catholic sister in the nineteenth century.

Isaac Hawkins Hall                                                  Healy Hall

Ambassador Ed Perkins, president of ABAA, thanked Dr. DeGioia for hosting the lunch, for his profound remarks, and for Georgetown’s aid in bringing an end to apartheid in South Africa during the time he served there as the first African-American ambassador to that (at the time) rigidly segregated country.