The New York Times

The New York Times 7 Feb 2020

We May Be the First People to Receive Reparations for Slavery

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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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… show captions ↓
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?

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