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georgetown students vote in favor of reparations fund

April 15, 2019
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Nearly two centuries ago, the Jesuit Priests that started Georgetown University sold 272 enslaved Africans in order to secure funding for the school’s financial future according to the New York Times. Right now, almost 200 years later, Georgetown is one of the most well-endowed colleges in the United States and its undergraduate class just voted to create a fund for the descendants of those slaves. A student-led, non-binding referendum proposed that an additional $27.20 be added to the tuition of the undergraduate body — it passed with 66% of the vote. Proceeds of the fund will be used to help the 4000 descendants of the enslaved Africans residing in Maryland and Louisiana, through education and healthcare programs.

The sale came about when the founding Jesuit Priests decided to sell almost all their slaves to raise cash because the Jesuit-owned plantations they relied on for funding were no longer reliable sources of income. The sale yielded what would amount to $3.3 million dollars when adjusted for inflation but even that number is just a start. The group that organized the referendum is called Students for the GU272 and according to member Shepard Thomas, a psychology major from New Orleans, “The school wouldn’t be here without them,” he told the New York Times.

Georgetown became one of the first institutions to acknowledge and apologize for its participation in slavery by implementing admissions preference for the descendants of the 272, of which, Mr. Thomas is one. The institution started out its pennance by naming two buildings after the enslaved Africans; one building is named after the first person listed on the sale in 1838, Isaac Hawkins. The number $27.20 was chosen to commemorate the lives of the 272 enslaved Africans and their place in the foundational legacy of Georgetown University. The undergraduate class consists of about 7,000 people, so the fund would collect about $380,000 per year.

“Students here are always talk about changing the world after they graduate,” Thomas said. “Why not change the world when you’re here?” That is the powerful sentiment that will push the movement for reparations forward. We won’t speak about the 33% of the undergraduate class that voted no because America is suffering under the abject tyranny of that 30%, specifically their leader in the White House. Where Thomas’ words speak truth to power is the fact that reparations should be treated like the foregone conclusion that they are. Reparations are a serious political reality and the Black community should take them off the shelf of possibility and ask itself, “Why not change the world when you’re here?”


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