Georgetown University, 272 Slaves Sold, and the Making of a Nation

It was 1838 when the Jesuit priests in Washington, D.C. that owned them sold 272 slaves. They were sold to the owners of 3 plantations (labor camps) in Louisiana. The sellers ran a college in the District of Columbia. Today that college is named Georgetown University. It was one of the nation’s great institutions of higher learning then. It is one of the nation’s great universities today.

The slaves that were sold were already working on the plantation that the college owned in the state of Maryland. The college enslaved them there to make money. So why were they sold? They were sold for the same reason-to make money. The college could get more for them by selling them than they could get by working them. They could get enough money for them to keep the college going. The slavers in Louisiana were willing to pay a lot of money for them. They paid more money for them because they had come up with a brutal system for working them that made a lot more money.

This all happened at a time when a lot of slaves were being sold by owners in northern states to owners in southern states for the same reason. The nation had been benefitting greatly from the contribution of slaves in every area of national life since 1607. Even though it was wrong nothing in the nation could move forward without it. Because the nation never faced up to it from the beginning it would not be long after 1838 when the nation would go to war over Unpaid Labor.

The slaves sold by the Jesuit priests of Georgetown traveled south on ships to Louisiana. At the same time the stage was being set for Abraham Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the American Civil War. The war would have to be fought 27 years later because the founding fathers decided to keep slavery in place.

The slaves that enriched Georgetown, and saved Georgetown, and enriched the plantations they were sold to in Louisiana still speak today. We know their names. The students at Georgetown and alumnus Richard J. Cellini and Dr. Adam Rothman of Georgetown are making sure that they are not forgotten.

They call out for honor. They call out for standing. They call out for dignity. They call out in hope. They will continue their call until their indispensable contribution to Georgetown University becoming one of the most successful universities in the history of the United States is acknowledged.