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Human Slavery

Modern-day reparations:

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2019-APR-11: Students at Georgetown University in Washington DC voted to create a reparations fund:

The results of a student referendum called "GU272" were released on APR-11. The vote was on whether to create a fund that would benefit the descendents of the 272 slaves who were sold by the Jesuits during 1838 CE. They had founded and ran the Georgetown school, but needed money to pay off debts and keep the University operating. It would be the first such reparation for slavery by a prominent American organization. 1

The students took the vote seriously. Someone posted three identical signs on a brick wall at the University saying: "VOTE NO ON GU272. We can do better."

Another student responded by posting three additional signs underneath, saying: "THEN DO BETTER. VOTE YES ON APRIL-11. THEN DO BETTER."2

The Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) announced the results of the vote: 2,541 students voted in favor of the measure, while 1,304 opposed it. If implemented, a "Reconciliation Contribution" fee of $27.20 per semester would be paid by each student.

The referendum was non binding. The university's board of directors would have to approve it before it can take effect. 3

The undergraduate enrollment at Georgetown is more than 7,000. At two semesters a year, and tuition set at $53,520 per year, this would mean about a 0.1% increase in student fees.

Todd Olson, the school’s vice president for student affairs, issued a statement saying that the university:

“...values the engagement of our students.”

“Our students are contributing to an important national conversation and we share their commitment to addressing Georgetown’s history with slavery.”

“We understand that the goals of the student referendum are to honor the 272 enslaved individuals sold by the Maryland Jesuits in 1838.”

“There are many approaches that enable our community to respond to the legacies of slavery. ....”

“This student referendum provides valuable insight into student perspectives and will help guide our continued engagement with students, faculty and staff, members of the descendant community, and the Society of Jesus.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren and former mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio, TX and several other Democratic candidates for the 2020 elections have strongly supported reparations.

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How could the money be distributed?

With an enrollment at Georgetown of more than 7,000 undergraduates, more than $380,000 would be collected from the students each year.

  • It would not be practical to distribute the money among each descendent of the original 272 slaves.

    Using the Descendants Calculator program, and assuming seven generations between the time the slaves were sold and now, and assuming 25 years per generation, and an average of four children in each family, then there would be 71,844 descendents of the original slaves who are alive today. This means that every descendent would be entitled to about $5.00.

    Assuming that:

    • The administration costs would be taken out of the funds collected, and that

    • It would cost more than $5.00 to track down each descendent, and mail them a check;

    Then each descendent would probably receive no money.

  • Sandra Green Thomas, who is the great-great-granddaughter of slaves, suggested that:

    "... there’s a lot Georgetown can do. The most obvious beginning is some sort of formal acknowledgment and apology from Georgetown officials to the descendants. Next, since the Jesuits took away these individuals’ right to freedom and self-determination, it follows that a Georgetown education should be offered to all descendants who wish it."

    There would be sufficient funds from the proposed increase in student fees to fund 7 scholarships per year.

  • However, an article by Adeel Hassan in the New York Times states that the proceeds would be given as grant(s) to support:

    "... education and health care programs in Louisiana and Maryland, where many of 4,000 known living descendants of the 272 enslaved people now reside. 1

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Adeel Hassan, "Georgetown Students Agree to Create Reparations Fund," New York Times, 2019-APR-12, at: https://www.nytimes.com/
  2. Beatrice Peterson, "Georgetown students vote overwhelming in favor of $27 fee for slavery reparations," ABC News, 2019-APR-12, at: https://abcnews.go.com/
  3. "Georgetown Students Must Pay $27/Semester in Reparations for Slave Descendants," Liberty Headlines, 2019-APR-12, at: https://www.libertyheadlines.com/

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Originally posted on 2019-APR-14
Written by B.A. Robinson

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Copyright © 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2019-APR-14
Author: B.A. Robinson
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