Opinion: Our Ancestors Were Sold To Save Georgetown. ‘$400,000 Is Not Going To Do It.’

Kevin Mwanza
Written by Kevin Mwanza
Georgetown
In 1838, Georgetown University sold 272 slaves to Louisiana plantations. The university’s students voted to create a reparations fund for their descendants. Deja Lindsey, 20, a junior at Georgetown University, talks on her cell phone in front of Healy Hall on campus, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, in Washington. Image: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

In 1838, Georgetown University was facing financial ruin which led the Jesuit priests, who ran Georgetown then, to sell 272 enslaved people to three plantations in Louisiana for $115,000 to keep their doors open.

That $115,000 is the equivalent of about $3.3 million in today’s dollars.

In 2019, students in the university voted overwhelmingly in favor of creating a reparations fund for the descendants of the enslaved Africans sold by the school.

Georgetown university now has roughly $1.6 billion in endowment and is one of the top-ranked schools in the U.S.

This came almost a year after hundreds of students protested and held a campus sit-in against racism in the school. According to the students, the hostile environment was linked to the school’s historic ties to slavery.

The fund would be one of the first of its kind at a prominent U.S. institution.

Talks of reparations are growing across the U.S. on college campuses which have decided to own up to how they benefitted from slavery.

Schools like Brown University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, for instance, have done the research to examine how they were connected with the slave trade.

“It doesn’t have to be trillions of dollars, but at least address the inequities and attack the racial wealth gap between African Americans and white Americans and really everybody else, because this is an American made institution. We didn’t migrate here,” said University of Buffalo senior, Jeffrey Clinton, a descendant of slaves who lives in Bay Shore, New York.

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Even though undergraduates at Georgetown University voted for a non-binding referendum to pay $27.20 per semester that will be used as a “reconciliation contribution’, which will be directed at descendants of the slaves, Georgetown president John DeGioia responded with plans for a university-led initiative whose goal was to raise $400,000 from donors.

However, the more than 8,000 descendants living today feel like the school’s fund is not close to what is owed.