University President John J. DeGioia made his announcement following recommendations from Georgetown’s 16-member working group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation, which he convened in 2015 to examine how the university should respond to its participation in the US slave trade.
In 1838, the Jesuit priests who founded the school sold 272 enslaved African Americans, using the funds to settle the institution’s debts. DeGioia said that their descendants would be given the same preferential status in admissions currently enjoyed by the descendants of alumni and students.
The new admissions policy is part of a five-pronged agenda to implement the working group’s suggestions. The steps include reconciliation, engagement, memorialization, research, teaching and public history, and opportunity.
As a part of the memorialization effort, the university will rename Remembrance Hall and Freedom Hall, to Anne Marie Becraft Hall and Isaac Hall, respectively, after a free woman of color who founded a school for black women at Georgetown in 1827, and a man who was one the 272 people sold.
David Collins, chair of the working group, said, "As we join the Georgetown community we must understand that part of our history is this history of slaveholding and the slave trade…And that opens our eyes to broader social issues that are still unhealed in our nation. History matters up to the present and into the future."
DeGioia said in a letter to students and faculty, "I believe the most appropriate ways for us to redress the participation of our predecessors in the institution of slavery is to address the manifestations of the legacy of slavery in our time."