Tag: enslaved peoples

And The Children Shall Lead Them: Georgetown University Students Vote to Pay Fee to Benefit Descendants of Enslaved People Sold By School

Georgetown University Healy Hall (photo via wikipedia.org)

According to jbhe.com, the student body of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. recently voted on a proposal to add a semester fee of $27.20 that would go toward a fund to benefit descendants of the 272 enslaved persons once owned and then sold in 1838 by the university to pay off debt. The referendum passed by a vote of 2,541 to 1,304, which means nearly two-thirds of enrolled students are in favor of the new fee.

“The university values the engagement of our students and appreciates that 3,845 students made their voices heard in yesterday’s election,” said Todd Olson, Georgetown’s Vice President for Student Affairs, in an official statement. “Our students are contributing to an important national conversation and we share their commitment to addressing Georgetown’s history with slavery.”

Georgetown administrators, however, have said the student referendum is nonbinding, and the school’s 39-member board of directors would have to vote on the measure, according to the school’s student newspaper, the Hoya.

If Georgetown’s board approves, reports The Huffington Post, it would be one of the first major U.S. institutions to create a fund for slavery reparations.

Critics of the reparations fund have argued that it should not be current students’ responsibility to atone for the school’s past.

Like many American institutions in recent years, Georgetown has been grappling with its role in slavery. Last year, Georgetown issued a formal apology to the descendants of the 272 slaves and announced a policy to give them priority in admissions. The university also renamed two campus buildings, including one in honor of Isaac Hawkins, the first person listed in the 1838 sale.

Nationally, the issue of reparations has been in the spotlight lately. Earlier this week, the New York Times published an opinion piece entitled “When Slaveowners Got Reparations”, pointing out how President Lincoln signed a bill in 1862 that paid up to $300 to slaveholders for every enslaved person freed when he emancipated those in bondage in Washington D.C. In 2014, journalist and best-selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote “The Case for Reparations,” for The Atlantic, highlighting the topic, and even typically conservative NY Times writer David Brooks wrote in March why he’s come around to the cause.

Several 2020 Democratic presidential contenders have expressed support, including Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who this week announced legislation to study the issueSens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also have called for a closer look at the issue.

BOOKS: “Never Caught” Tells Story of Ona Judge, Enslaved Woman who Escaped and Defied President Washington

512y-xth0ilarticle by Jennifer Schuessler via nytimes.com

MOUNT VERNON, Va. — The costumed characters at George Washington’s gracious estate here are used to handling all manner of awkward queries, whether about 18th-century privies or the first president’s teeth. So when a visitor recently asked an African-American re-enactor in a full skirt and head scarf if she knew Ona Judge, the woman didn’t miss a beat.

Judge’s escape from the presidential residence in Philadelphia in 1796 had been “a great embarrassment to General and Lady Washington,” the woman said, before offering her own view of the matter.“Ona was born free, like everybody,” she said. “It was this world that made her a slave.”

It’s always 1799 at Mount Vernon, where more than a million visitors annually see the property as it was just before Washington’s death, when his will famously freed all 123 of his slaves. That liberation did not apply to Ona Judge, one of 153 slaves held by Martha Washington.

But Judge, it turned out, evaded the Washingtons’ dogged (and sometimes illegal) efforts to recapture her, and would live quietly in New Hampshire for another 50 years. Now her story — and the challenge it offers to the notion that Washington somehow transcended the seamy reality of slaveholding — is having its fullest airing yet.  Judge is among the 19 enslaved people highlighted in “Lives Bound Together: Slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon,” the first major exhibition at Mount Vernon dedicated to the topic (it runs through 2018, check link above for details).

She is also the subject of a book, “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge,” by Erica Armstrong Dunbar.

Erica Armstrong Dunbar, the author of “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge,” at George Washington’s estate in Mount Vernon, Va. (Credit: Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times)
Erica Armstrong Dunbar, the author of “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge,” at George Washington’s estate in Mount Vernon, Va. (Credit: Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times)

Most scholars who have written about Judge’s escape have used it as a lens onto Washington’s evolving ideas about slavery. But “Never Caught,” published this Tuesday by 37 Ink, flips the perspective, focusing on what freedom meant to the people he kept in bondage. “We have the famous fugitives, like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass,” Ms. Dunbar, a professor of black studies and history at the University of Delaware, said in an interview in Mount Vernon’s 18th-century-style food court. “But decades before them, Ona Judge did this. I want people to know her story.”

Research on slavery has exploded in the two decades since Mount Vernon, Monticello and other founder home sites introduced slavery-themed tours and other prominent acknowledgments of the enslaved. “Lives Bound Together”  was originally going to fill one 1,100-square-foot room in the museum here, but soon expanded to include six other galleries normally dedicated to the decorative and fine arts, books and manuscripts.

An installation about Ona Judge, often referred to by the diminutive Oney, in the exhibition “Lives Bound Together: Slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.” (Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times)

The exhibition makes it clear just who poured from the elegant teapots and did the backbreaking work on the 8,000-acre estate. But integrating the harsh reality of slavery into the heroic story of Washington — “a leader of character,” as the title of the permanent exhibition across from the slavery show calls him — remains unfinished work, some scholars say. Continue reading “BOOKS: “Never Caught” Tells Story of Ona Judge, Enslaved Woman who Escaped and Defied President Washington”

Georgetown University to Offer Preferred Admissions Status to Descendants of Slaves Sold in 1838 to Save Institution

Georgetown University in Washington, seen from across the Potomac River. The institution came under fire last fall, with students demanding justice for the slaves in the 1838 sale. Credit (Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times)

article by Rachel L. Swarns via nytimes.com

Nearly two centuries after Georgetown University profited from the sale of 272 slaves, it will embark on a series of steps to atone for the past, including awarding preferential status in the admissions process to descendants of the enslaved, officials said on Wednesday.

Georgetown’s president, John J. DeGioia, who will discuss the measures in a speech on Thursday afternoon, also plans to offer a formal apology, create an institute for the study of slavery and erect a public memorial to the slaves whose labor benefited the institution, including those who were sold in 1838 to help keep the university afloat.  

In addition, two campus buildings will be renamed — one for an enslaved African-American man and the other for an African-American educator who belonged to a Catholic religious order.  So far, Mr. DeGioia’s plan does not include a provision for offering scholarships to descendants, a possibility that was raised by a university committee whose recommendations were released on Thursday morning. The committee, however, stopped short of calling on the university to provide such financial assistance, as well as admissions preference.

To read full article, go to: Georgetown University Plans Steps to Atone for Slave Past – The New York Times