I come from the great state of Texas that has literally erased the history and the true brutality of slavery from our schools and textbooks. The reality of the cruelty of chattel slavery in America is often displayed as a sugar coated fantasy that is over simplified, dishonest, and unrealistic.
Slavery is often a topic brushed off and ignored for something more favorable and modern. Often, concern from Black Americans about how the institution of slavery impacted our current experiences are often met with demands telling descendants to, “get over it, slavery was a long time ago.”
Until this day, Black Americans haven’t received a dime for centuries of brutality and unpaid labor that is responsible for the majority of today’s economy. Even the promise of forty acres and a mule was quickly taken away after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Black Americans had to pick themselves up from bootstraps they never had in the first place. However, even with my ancestors’ newfound freedom, every move made to establish independence and equality was met with hate and violence that left us years behind in trying to catch up to our White counterparts.
On September 1st, 2016, Georgetown University president John J. Degrecia gave a public apology to students and faculty about its hand in slavery. The move was made in response to students’ cries and demands that the public institution acknowledge and address its dark past.
— Trey Yingst (@TreyYingst) November 13, 2015
The university has now promised to step forward with promises of renaming campus buildings after some of the slaves, a non-profit called the Georgetown Memory Project, a memorial, removing the names of the presidents over the sale of slaves from buildings, and the creation of an institute for students to study the America’s history of chattel slavery.
Per email from Georgetown president, here are some steps university will take as reparation for links to slavery: pic.twitter.com/E4guQPMxqr
— Martin Austermuhle (@maustermuhle) September 1, 2016
However, the biggest offer the media’s been buzzing about is giving descendants of Georgetown University “priority admission,” the same privilege given to family of alumni.
— Mrs.Moxie (@moxiemasala) September 19, 2013
The promises altogether seem very reassuring. I also commend the university’s apology, as well as its establishment of educational implementation and institutional changes, to recognize not only its part, but the lives of Georgetown slaves. The fact is that Georgetown University wouldn’t have made it without selling the slaves of Georgetown to keep the University going. It made 115,000 dollars from auctioning off slaves, which is the equivalent to just about 3.3 million dollars today.
The question is, do the descendants of Georgetown slaves deserve more? Some have even argued that the privilege of priority admission shouldn’t even be given. Yet the descendants of Georgetown slaves deserve much more than a couple of extra points on a first class admission ticket to college.
Especially if it may be no use to the many generations that aren’t far removed from slavery. Keep in mind, slavery wasn’t even that long ago and carried on past 1865, especially in Southern states. My great-great-granddaddy is still alive until this day, and is the grandson of a slave. My great-great-great-granddaddy Tutu died in the year I was born, 1993. My three times great granddaddy was born in 1875, and he couldn’t read or write, but he knew the Bible front and back.
To make it worse, slaves were often separated from their families. They were often given their new owner’s last name once reaching a new plantation. The erasure of one’s former identity was done purposely so families couldn’t reconnect to their past. This just may be the case for the many descendants of Georgetown slaves. With a lack of documentation, proof, or maybe even a story passed down, not everyone will have the privilege to proclaim that they are a descendants of Georgetown slaves.
Georgetown slaves were taken from the state of Maryland and sold to the state of Louisiana. Although the university itself has created a non-profit that will work to find the descendants, it makes me wonder how long this would take and whether they would be successful with the amount of resources they have. The number of slaves sold in 1838 was 272, which means you have a long line of descendants standing behind them.
Being able to trace your ancestry back a few generations is a privilege.
— Mahlatse Nhlane 🧜🏾♀️ (@Shlatz) September 13, 2014
It's 2016 and people are still denying the lingering effects of slavery and colonization in the black community pic.twitter.com/MFi2ux0R3j
— Serengeti Wap (@ultimatenegro) August 29, 2016
The truth of the matter is that Georgetown University and many other institutions and corporations would not be in existence today, if it weren’t for the labor of enslaved African Americans. The university profited off of the slave trade, and therefore descendants and generations deserve much more than “priority admission.”
The University’s investment page states that “at the end of the most recent fiscal year, ending June 30, 2015, Georgetown’s pooled endowment was approximately $1.5 billion.” It’s time to realize that the institution of slavery is the backbone and life source for the American economy today.
It’s great that Georgetown chooses to acknowledge their role and educate students on the topic. However, the refusal of reparations or any type of compensation is the exact reason why African Americans haven’t got a strong establishment in this country till this day.
Yeah, we all know slavery is over and it isn’t current students’, faculty’s, or white America’s fault. However, the institution itself has gained much more because of the slave trade, and that is enough of a reason to hold the institution responsible.