A message from Georgetown and the Jesuits

January 12, 2018

Dear Members of the Descendant Community,

Over the course of recent months, members of the Georgetown and Jesuit communities have been honored to meet many of you and to begin conversations about a journey of reconciliation for our communities.

We write today to share a proposed way forward for a long-term partnership between our communities and to seek your assistance in engaging additional Descendants as we work to create opportunities for engagement on these ideas.

My Georgetown and Jesuit colleagues and I are grateful for the opportunities that we have had to be together and that we will have in the future as our work continues. Our time with you has deepened our understanding of the profound and personal meaning of the legacy of slavery and how, in dialogue, partnership, and collaboration, we might grapple with the manifestations of this terrible legacy in our time.

On April 18th, 2017, our communities came together for a Liturgy of Remembrance, Contrition and Hope and the dedication of two buildings: one named in honor of Isaac Hawkins and the other for Anne Marie Becraft. In this setting, we had the opportunity to offer a public apology for the roles that Georgetown and the Jesuits played in the evil of slavery.

In conversations with many of you, and through reflection and prayer, we have sought to determine additional ways that we could work together to best contribute to addressing the ongoing consequences of slavery. Since 2016, we have met with many of you and heard many important ideas on ways we might work together. Many ideas were shared with us during the April 2017 Dialogue with Descendants at Georgetown and during last month’s visit to Louisiana by Reverend Timothy Kesicki, S.J., President of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, and Reverend Robert Hussey, S.J., Provincial of the Maryland Jesuits.

Our conversations have reinforced the importance of building a strong and lasting framework for dialogue, partnership, and collaboration among the Descendants, Georgetown, and the Jesuits. We believe that developing this framework from a set of guiding principles can enable us to work together on important ideas over the long-term. Our histories are inextricably linked and, in that spirit, we seek ways to move forward together.

With a sense of humility and gratitude, guided by the many conversations we have had with Descendants, we wish to propose a draft set of principles for your consideration and to hear from you your ideas and reflections. We believe seeking engagement and consensus around a set of principles can help us move forward in developing a partnership and determining the most meaningful and significant ideas for our communities to pursue together. We look forward to your feedback and your ideas. It is our hope that, as you reflect on these principles, you will also share them with additional members of the Descendant community.

In the coming weeks, we would like to work with you and other members of the Descendant community to arrange a series of in-person meetings—in Louisiana, in southern Maryland, in Washington, D.C., and in other locations—to hear from you about these draft principles, and your ideas, and to begin a conversation about how we might build a lasting forum for dialogue, partnership, and collaboration. We also hope to work with you on additional opportunities for engaging with those who many not be able to attend in-person gatherings.

We encourage you to visit our website, call us at (202)-687-8330, or email us at if you are interested in learning more or sharing your ideas and reflections. On our website, you are also able to sign up to receive news and information.

This is an important year for our nation and for our communities. We mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose legacy we celebrate on his national holiday this coming week. In June, we mark 180 years since the 1838 sale of 272 enslaved children, women, and men, and the journey that forced them south to Louisiana. We proceed humbly in their memory.


Joseph A. Ferrara, Ph.D.
Vice President and Chief of Staff
Georgetown University

Proposed Guiding Principles for Dialogue, Partnership, and Collaboration


Georgetown University and the Society of Jesus share a commitment to working together with the Descendants of the enslaved people of the Maryland plantations toward reconciliation.

We seek to strive for reconciliation through dialogue, partnership, and collaboration with one another and the initiatives that we undertake together.

We are committed to building a framework for dialogue, partnership, and collaboration among the Descendant, Jesuit, and Georgetown communities.

We are committed to dialogue, partnership, and collaboration with the Descendant community for the long-term.

We seek to identify, in dialogue and conversation with the Descendant community, a set of principles that can guide our work together in building a long-term and ongoing framework for dialogue, partnership, and collaboration that can advance shared initiatives focused on racial justice.

Draft Principles

  • We value the points of view of each member of the Descendant, Jesuit, and Georgetown communities. We seek to be inclusive of diverse voices and welcoming of all members of our communities.
  • We will focus on finding common ground and we will seek to establish consensus on the work that is meaningful and significant that we can pursue together.
  • We will be ambitious in developing our shared goals.
  • Initiatives that are prioritized will draw on the inherent strengths and expertise of the Descendant, Georgetown, and Jesuit communities and will seek to pursue racial justice.
  • Initiatives we embark on will involve collaboration among the Descendants, Georgetown, and the Jesuits.
  • Initiatives will be launched, evaluated, and refined, and over time, new projects will be set in motion.

Draft January 12, 2018