Reckoning With Georgetown University's Foundation of Slavery

In 1838, Jesuits sold 272 enslaved Africans to help keep Georgetown University open. Now, as the school reckons with its past, a descendant of one man sold at that auction wants to open a conversation about slavery.

Important to know your ancestry

In 1838, 272 African slaves were sold by Jesuit priests to keep Georgetown University open. 181 years later, the school and the descendants of those sold into slavery are reckoning with what happened. Hodge is descended from Isaac Hawkins — one of the slaves sold by in the 1838 Jesuit Slave Sale to balance the debt of the institution that become Georgetown. In 2017, Georgetown renamed one of their residential halls after Hawkins. Lack of action from the school led to the creation of nonprofits like the Georgetown Memory Project, which since its founding in 2015 has raised over $10,000 from alumni to track down descendants of slaves.

“I was on the phone with my father simultaneously as I was searching because I said, wow, this is turning into something as I just felt it bubbling up like, wow, this is something. I found it. I found what I was looking for. I found my legacy. You want to be happy because now you've made this breakthrough. But in your happiness, you're angry, but you don't really know who to be mad at with the university itself, them attempting to do whatever they could to make it right for the descendants of those slaves would be the right thing to do. I was taking the genealogy course at church and someone texted me an article from "The New York Times" and they basically said, you and I share some of the same ancestry. I think you need to read this article,” Feith Hawkins Hodge, descendant - of the Georgetown 272 tells Brut.

In 2019, Georgetown announced it would attempt to raise $400,000 a year to benefit descendants — months after students voted for this in a non-binding resolution. Over 600,000 Africans were captured enslaved and transported to the U.S. as reported by the Dictionary of American Slavery. Starting with Georgetown, Hodge says she would like to see change in how we discuss the lasting consequences of slavery and reparations.