Jesuits pledge $100 million to benefit descendants of enslaved people

By Catholic News Service
Wednesday, March 17, 2021

A building on Georgetown University's campus, renamed Isaac Hawkins Hall, right, is seen April 4, 2017. Previously known as Mulledy Hall and later Freedom Hall, it was renamed in 2017 for one of the 272 enslaved men, women and children sold by Georgetown's Jesuit community to plantation owners in Louisiana in 1838. Hawkins was the first enslaved person listed in the sale documents. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

WASHINGTON — The Jesuit order is pledging to raise $100 million for descendants of enslaved people once owned and sold by their order as a way to make reparations and also help the nation move toward racial healing.

The funds will be placed in a new partnership called Descendants Truth and Reconciliation Foundation formed by the Jesuit order and the GU272 Descendants Association — named after the 272 enslaved men, women and children who were sold by the Jesuit owners of Georgetown University to plantation owners in Louisiana in 1838. The New York Times first announced this foundation March 15.

A news release about the partnership said it was the “first of its kind” between the descendants of enslaved persons and the descendants of their enslavers. “Our shameful history of Jesuit slaveholding in the United States has been taken off the dusty shelf, and it can never be put back,” said Jesuit Father Tim Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States.

“Racism will endure in America if we continue to turn our heads away from the truth of the past and how it affects us all today. The lasting effects of slavery call each of us to do the work of truth and reconciliation,” he added in a release announcing the new partnership.

The priest told The New York Times the Jesuits have already put $15 million into a trust established to support the foundation, whose governing board will include representatives from other institutions with roots in slavery. He also said the order has hired a national fundraising firm to help raise the rest of the funds within the next three to five years.


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