Georgetown University will favour student applications from descendants of slaves, as part of a series of measures designed to atone for its historical ties to slavery.
John DeGioia, the university’s president, said that in the admissions process descendants of slaves will be given the “same consideration” as members of the Georgetown community and an Institute for the Study of Slavery and Its Legacies will be established to “support the continued, active engagement with descendants” and “sustained research”.
The moves follow the publication of a report by the Working Group on Slavery, Memory and Reconciliation, which was launched by the president in September 2015 to make recommendations on how best to acknowledge the university’s history in relation to slavery. In 1838, the university profited from the sale of 272 slaves.
The university will also rename several of its buildings to honour slaves and remove the mention of previous presidents that administered the 1838 sale. It will also create a “living and evolving” memorial to the slaves from whom Georgetown benefited, which will be designed with input from the descendants of those slaves, said the president.
Marcia Chatelain, associate professor of history and African American studies at Georgetown and a member of the working group, said that she hopes the university’s approach “teaches people that nothing bad happens when we’re honest about the past”.
“I think we’re in a critical moment in our country about race relations and about navigating the long-term consequences of inequality,” she said.