As African Americans celebrate Juneteenth, we are reminded of the atrocities our ancestors faced in The United States as they worked towards freedom.
The River Road African American Museum is a former Louisiana church, originally donated by slave owner and Louisiana governor Henry Johnson in 1873. The museum now operates to “collect, preserve, exhibit and interpret artifacts and buildings to educate visitors about African Americans’ history and culture in the rural communities between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.”
The Louisiana museum holds a permanent exhibit called, “GU272 and Ascension Parish: The Jesuit and Episcopal Connection to Slavery,” to remind visitors that Georgetown University owes its historical standing and relevance today to 272 enslaved lives.
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In 1838, in Washington, D.C., Jesuit leaders of Georgetown College sold 272 enslaved people, including children and babies, to rescue the institution from debt. The college was later renamed Georgetown University.
In 2019, Georgetown students voted for the University to provide reparations for the descendants of those enslaved individuals. They began to protest, demanding the school take responsibility for its past.
Georgetown is not the only high-profile institution with a past of owning enslaved people. Other universities like Harvard, Columbia and the University of Virginia admitted to their own troubled history with slavery.
Alongside them, Georgetown has admitted to its past and has several resources on its website supporting descendants.
On the website page “Georgetown Reflects on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation,” the school writes in a statement, “Georgetown is engaged in a long-term and ongoing process to more deeply understand and respond to the university’s role in the injustice of slavery and the legacies of enslavement and segregation in our nation. Through engagement with the members of the Descendant community, collaborative projects and new initiatives and learning and research, the University pursues a path of memorialization and reconciliation in our present day.”