Georgetown Is Trying to Make Amends for Its History of Slavery

A new admissions policy is just one of the unprecidented changes the school plans on making to acknowledge its role in the slave trade.

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Sep 1 2016, 5:50pm

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Georgetown University in Washington, DC, will move to address its history of slavery by offering the same kind of preferential treatment to descendants of slaves seeking admission that it shows toward family members of alumni, the New York Times reports.

In 1838, the Catholic institution sold 272 slaves and used the money to help finance the school. To atone for the shameful past, the Ivy League university is expected to announce that it will offer a formal apology, rename two of its buildings to honor an enslaved man and a prominent African American educator, erect a new memorial, and offer a new institute for the study of slavery, in addition to its new admission policy.

Georgetown president John J DeGioia also plans to give descendants the opportunity to collaborate on the memorial, as well as make genealogical information available from the school's archives.

"It goes farther than just about any institution," Craig Steven Wilder, a slavery historian at MIT, told the Times. "I think it's to Georgetown's credit. It's taking steps that a lot of universities have been reluctant to take."

While many other schools have acknowledged their ties to the slave trade or simply resorted to changing the controversial names on some of their buildings, Wilder believes Georgetown's strides are the most profound of any university in the last ten years.

While it's still unclear what impact the new policies will make for incoming students, it's definitely a step in the right direction. President DeGioia is expected to announce the historic changes Thursday.

"We know we've got work to do, and we're going to take those steps to do so," he told the Times. "It needs to be a part of our living history."

Read: New York City's Surprising Role Funding Slavery and Profiting Off the Civil War

Photo via Flickr user Timothy Vollmer

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