Georgetown University is taking steps to atone for its role in slavery. The university will offer preferential admission to descendants of the slaves it kept, as well as offer a formal apology, create a special institute for the study of slavery, and rename two buildings on campus.
The New York Times reports that the historic college has a complex history with slavery. In 1838, 272 men, women, and children (who belonged to Jesuit priests at the time) were sold to help raise money for the institution. The 1838 sale - worth some $3.3 million in today’s dollars - was organized by two of the college's early presidents.
Georgetown's decision to offer preferred admissions to descendants will be similar to what's offered to the children and grandchildren of alumni. The unprecedented move will also include descendants of any slaves whose labor and work helped the institution, beyond those sold in 1838.
“We know we’ve got work to do, and we’re going to take those steps to do so,” said Georgetown President John J. DeGioia.
According to the newspaper, Harvard University, Brown University and more than a dozen other college institutions have recognized their historic ties to slavery.