Georgetown University announced on Tuesday it will create a fund that could generate close to $400,000 a year to benefit the descendants of slaves once sold by the university, the latest in the school's efforts to address the historical legacy of slavery.
In 1838, the university sold 272 slaves to pay off debts and ultimately keep the school open. Georgetown has been engaged in conversations over the last few years about how to acknowledge that history, including rededicating buildings named after two former Jesuit university presidents that facilitated the sale and creating an admissions policy for the descendants of the slaves.
Students voted in support of implementing a fee of $27.20 a semester for a reparations fund in April, but the university's Oct. 29 announcement said they will move forward with the fund, without a student fee. The school said that as officials began to openly discuss the effort more, members of the community connected to the school said they wanted to participate in benefiting the descendants of slaves.
"We embrace the spirit of this student proposal and will work with our Georgetown community to create an initiative that will support community-based projects with Descendant communities," Georgetown President John HJ. DeGioia wrote in the letter to the school.
There are around 7,000 undergraduate students enrolled at Georgetown, so the referendum estimated a reparations fund would generate close to $400,000 a year through donations. Georgetown did not commit to set aside a specific amount of money for the fund every year but said the school would ensure it had the same amount or more than would have been raised from the student fee.
"The University will ensure that the initiative has resources commensurate with, or exceeding, the amount that would have been raised annually through the student fee proposed in the Referendum, with opportunities for every member of our community to contribute."
The university said it will establish an advisory group to launch the fund and propose community projects that could also raise money to benefit the descendants of slaves once sold by the school.