Georgetown continues support as Jesuits, descendants of enslaved form foundation

With the ongoing support and active participation of Georgetown, the Jesuits and descendants of the 272 enslaved individuals sold in 1838 by the Maryland Province of Jesuits have established a new charitable foundation focused on racial healing and educational advancement.

The Descendants Truth & Reconciliation Foundation will take a leading role in addressing the legacies of enslavement in the United States and its impact on families and communities today. “The Descendants Truth & Reconciliation Foundation represents an extraordinary vision of racial healing and transformation,” said President John J. DeGioia. “At Georgetown, and across higher education, we share a vital role in supporting the vision of this Foundation.”

DeGioia this week updated the university community on Georgetown’s work regarding Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation. “Georgetown was honored to provide $1 million in funding to support the planning and assistance necessary to create the framework and structure for the Foundation, and we look forward to supporting and partnering with the Foundation moving forward,” he said.

‘Powerful and transformative vision’

The founding Board of Trustees for the new foundation includes members of the Descendant and Jesuit communities. Georgetown is one of two institutions of higher education with representation on the board; the other is Southern University, a historically Black university in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Representatives from each institution began to meet in March 2018 to explore sustainable actions and partnerships.

The Descendants and Jesuits say the vision is that one day the foundation will be a $1 billion institution. The Jesuits have made an initial contribution and will lead a fundraising campaign to build the new foundation’s financial capacity, which Georgetown will help to support.

“It was the Descendants’ powerful and transformative vision that drove the creation of the foundation,” said Joseph Ferrara, who serves as vice president and chief of staff at Georgetown and represents the university on the foundation’s board. “This is the beginning of a new and meaningful phase of work as we continue the journey, and we hope and believe that other institutions will join us in supporting the new foundation.”

In addition to the work to support the foundation, Georgetown also has committed to contributing $400,000 a year–based on the amount proposed by a student referendum in 2019–for a reconciliation fund to support work to benefit the Descendant community.

“It is with hope and gratitude that we begin this next phase of our work in partnership with the Descendant community and the Society of Jesus, as we continue to grapple with and respond to the enduring legacies of the enslavement of people of African descent,” DeGioia said.

Read President DeGioia’s full message, and learn more about Georgetown’s ongoing work to confront the university’s historical ties to slavery.

Topics in this story

Next Up

How one college president is diversifying campus leadership

Arcadia University President Ajay Nair recently recounted his experience in academe as a person of color and highlighted several ways that Arcadia could serve as a model for diversifying campus leadership.

Read