We May Be the First People to Receive Reparations for Slavery
Georgetown University is one of the country's top-ranked schools and has a roughly $1.6 billion endowment. But in 1838, the university was facing financial ruin. So the Jesuit priests, who ran Georgetown, sold 272 enslaved people to three plantations in Louisiana for $115,000 — or the equivalent of about $3.3 million in today's dollars to keep their doors open. That's how the ancestors of DaVita Robinson, Valerie White, Maxine Crump — all descendants of the 272 and featured in the Video Op-Ed above — ended up in Louisiana.
And now, they may become the first people in the history of the United States to receive reparations for slavery.
In 2019, Georgetown students pushed the school to create a reparations fund. Georgetown has promised to raise $400,000 per year to go toward descendants of the enslaved people it sold. With more than 8,000 known descendants living today, is the school's fund even close to what's owed?
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In 1838, Georgetown University sold 272 people to Louisiana to save the university from bankruptcy. Among those that were sold were my ancestors. That university would not be here today had it not been for my grandparents. That was a long time ago, but the effects of that are still felt today. There are disproportionate negative outcomes for those who are descendants of slaves that can only be explained by the fact that this enslavement happened, reparation didn't happen, and now is the time. In October, Georgetown University announced that they would raise $400,000 a year for the descendants of the 272 enslaved Americans that were sold to Louisiana. They said this money will be spent beginning in the fall of 2020. My family might be making history in the United States. I might become one of the first in the history of America to receive reparations. Mechanicville is the area that is heavily populated with Georgetown descendants, including myself where I grew up. And Mechanicville is less than a half a mile away from where the plantations were where our ancestors were enslaved. I mean, you had people on very low income. Sometimes, they didn't have any income. Some of us have done well if we were able to get out and get an education, and a lot of us haven't. And they could really use some assistance or help. Mom? Hm? We might be the first that receive some form of reparations for slavery. It may start with you. Well, I think it would be a wonderful thing. Start out with me and then continue on with everybody who would be in need. There is so much I missed out on, but from the goodness of God, I'm still here. My mom — I will never forget — had one dress. She'd wash that dress out at night and hang it on the back of her chair to the fireplace to dry to have it to put on the next day. And my mom — patches on top of patches. So what do you think that — just maybe one thing you think that Georgetown should do? Well, my house could be upgraded, for one thing. In my community where I grew up, reparations would definitely help. If I was given reparations, I would definitely set some of that money aside for my son's future. My first thing is to get something for the elderly people. I would feel that my ancestors are rejoicing in heaven. It's $400,000. For each family? No. [CHUCKLING] It's just $400,000 for over 7,000 people. Oh my. Not much. Do you think $400,000 comes close to what we need as a people? So it's $400,000. Yes. O.K., so the descendants that's living now— you put that at how many, about 8,000? There's about 8,000. There's probably more. Equal $50. $50. It's a slap in the face. Not just a slap in the face, that's a kick in the behind also. Georgetown University is currently deciding how this money will be spent, but said it will go towards projects that support descendant communities. I think Georgetown has such an opportunity here to take the lead on this. I don't think they should go bankrupt, but $400,000 is not going to do it. Someone in authority at Georgetown needs to come down and actually meet with each descendant and see what each descendant needs. We don't need to make white people wrong. We don't need to make Georgetown wrong. We need to ask ourselves, what do we need to do to ensure that all of Americans have full access to every right that it means to be an American?