Another university has owned up to its past involvement in the slave trade and is hoping to make amends. Georgetown University, the oldest Catholic university in the United States, held a service on Tuesday to admit to its involvement in slavery, the hypocrisy of doing so as a religious institution and apologized, according to CNN.
“We express our solemn contrition for our participation in slavery and the benefit our institution received,” said Georgetown’s president, John DeGioia. “We cannot hide from this truth, bury this truth, ignore this truth. Slavery remains the original evil in our republic, an evil that our university was complicit in.”
A particular instance that DeGioia and other members of the school’s Jesuit leadership wanted to apologize took place in 1838. On the brink of going under, Georgetown University participated in the sale of 272 slaves to save itself, further extending the horrible system of slavery that tortured, displaced, and killed millions.
“When we remember that with those 272 souls, we received the same sacraments, read the same Scriptures, said the same prayers, sang the same hymns and praised the same God,” Rev. Timothy Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, said during his homily.
“How did we, the Society of Jesus, fail to see us all as one body in Christ? We betrayed the very name of Jesus for whom our society is named.”
Georgetown joins several other institutions that have been attempting to answer and make amends for their participation in the slave trade. Yale renamed a building that was essentially a monument to one of the biggest supporters of slavery and Harvard publicly acknowledged its own past.
While these gestures are largely symbolic, they offer hope that universities with this past are heading in the right direction. It is impossible to address entrenched, institutional racism if people do not first acknowledge its existence.