WASHINGTON (UPI) — Georgetown University, the nation’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit higher-education institution, announced plans to offer preferential admission to nearly 300 descendants of slaves used to fund the school nearly 200 years ago.

The private college, opened in 1789, also said it will offer a formal apology, create an institute for the study of slavery and build a public memorial to atone for its past use of slaves. In 1838, the school sold 272 slaves to pay its debts and keep the school afloat. The school received $115,000, or about $3.3 million in today’s dollars.

“There is a moral, as well as a practical, imperative that defines this moment — that shapes the responsibility we all share: how do we address now, in this moment, the enduring and persistent legacy of slavery? ” Georgetown President John J. DeGioia said in an open letter. “I believe the most appropriate ways for us to redress the participation of our predecessors in the institution of slavery is to address the manifestations of the legacy of slavery in our time.”

Last year, Georgetown put together a working group to research and recommend what action might be taken to make amends for the school’s ties to slavery. The school also plans to rename two campus buildings — one for a man named Isaac who was the first slave sold and the other for black educator and Catholic sister Anne Marie Becraft, who had roots in the Georgetown area.

The group found slave labor was used across the campus, including to construct the earliest buildings on campus.


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