The GU272 Isaac Hawkins Legacy group is demanding compensation from Georgetown University, claiming that the University has not done enough to atone for its slave-holding past.
Members of the group are descended from the 272 slaves who were sold by the Jesuits in 1838 to save Georgetown from financial ruin. GU272 is asking Georgetown – along with the Maryland Jesuits – to create a $1 billion foundation to benefit the descendants of the university’s former slaves. The group told the Washington Post that it had already raised $115,000 in seed money. The $1 billion request would represent over 70% of Georgetown total endowment.
University officials have expressed willingness to continue working with the descendants to honor the legacy of their ancestors. In an email to students, university president John DeGoia noted that Georgetown is working to create a Center for the Study of Slavery and its Legacies. He wrote, “We are now seeking to engage the Descendant and Jesuit communities in reflection on proposed principles to guide our long-term work together.”
In 2015, Georgetown created the Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation to begin to cope with the school’s history of slavery. Since then, the University has renamed two buildings after slaves who were sold in the 1838 sale, Isaac Hawkins and Anne Marie Becraft. Beginning in 2017, the university now grants preferential admissions status to the descendants. It also launched the Georgetown Slavery Archive, which seeks to uncover and preserve the stories of the men and women who were sold by the school.
But descendants feel they have been unable to participate in Georgetown’s efforts to reconcile with the past. One descendant of Isaac Hawkins, Dee Thomas, asked the Washington Post, “How can Georgetown, which owes its existence to these ancestors, claim genuine atonement when descendant families were not at the table when recommendations for making amends were offered, discussed, and chosen?”