Working Group Statement and Recommendations

Statement and Recommendation by the Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation

November 13, 2015

Since we began our work in September, our Working Group on Slavery, Memory and Reconciliation has held five meetings and has been thoughtfully considering how best to acknowledge and recognize Georgetown’s historical relationship with the institution of slavery; examine and interpret the history of certain sites on our campus, to include Mulledy Hall; and convene events and opportunities for dialogue on these issues.

The suggestion by the Black Leadership Forum and other students that the names of Mulledy and McSherry be removed from buildings on our campus are consistent with the conversations in our working group over the past two months.  For this reason, we are very encouraged by and welcome the suggestions of the Black Leadership Forum and other students. Their words are shaped by a thoughtfulness, a passion, and a spirit of constructive engagement that we appreciate deeply and hope will sustain us through the course of this important and painful conversation about our history and its legacy. We are especially moved by the concern for the naming of buildings and the identification of special sites on campus, such as burial plots.

The Working Group is in the process of figuring out the full extent of Georgetown’s unjust enrichment at the expense of the enslaved and is developing ways to foster a conversation about the history and its legacy. It is a complicated history. We cannot, as of yet, even determine with certainty the number of slaves sold by Father Mulledy or the larger number who contributed for decades to the growth of the school.

At the same time we share the urgency felt in many corners of the university community that something must be done to address the symbolic injustice preserved in the naming of two campus buildings after Jesuit administrators who effected the mass sale of enslaved persons in 1838.

At our meeting on Friday, November 13th, we passed two resolutions as recommendations to President DeGioia. First, we recommend that the names of Mulledy and McSherry be officially stricken as soon as possible from the student residence and from the building that houses the John Main Center for Meditation. Second, we recommend that by the end of the academic year both buildings be permanently renamed with attention to Georgetown’s historical relationship to slavery and that the Mulledy Building be renamed specifically with reference to the enslaved persons who were sold at Father Mulledy’s direction in 1838.

Until a broader conversation within the community enables us to recommend a permanent renaming of these buildings, we propose to the entire community that for the remainder of the academic year we refer to the Mulledy Building as “Freedom Hall” and to the McSherry Building as “Remembrance Hall.”

We propose the provisional name “Freedom Hall” for two reasons: first, “freedom” is, quite simply, exactly what the Society of Jesus and Georgetown College chose not to offer the enslaved in the early nineteenth century. And second, the name would give recognition to the historical, global, and pervasive fight for freedom that people around the world are still engaged in and dream to realize.

We propose the provisional name “Remembrance Hall” for three reasons: first, remembering the specific persons whose involuntary servitude has unjustly enriched our university is exactly what we have failed to do. Second, remembering this history and these people is at the heart of our current undertaking. And third, remembering this history and these people is what we want to ensure for the future. In addition, we are mindful of the current purpose of “Remembrance Hall” as a center for meditation and the part that meditation can play in bringing peoples together in peace.

In light of these values’ signal importance—freedom and remembrance—and their neglect in our own history, the Working Group has begun planning a symposium on the relationship of the university and slavery to coincide with Emancipation Day, the April 16 holiday in the District of Columbia corresponding to the abolition of slavery in the city. The purpose of the symposium will be to draw together the many projects, events, and voices that we hope will have shaped our conversation about the university and slaveholding over the coming months. The Emancipation Day symposium will then be the launching point for the final recommendations of the Working Group to the university’s President and Board of Directors. These will build on and bring to completion the recommendations we have made in this statement.

In the meantime, we encourage immediately the adoption of the provisional naming at all levels of and in all corners of the university – Freedom Hall and Remembrance Hall.

Finally, we invite you to join the conversations about how to best continue our work, beginning with several events in the coming weeks. 

  • Two conversation circles will take place next week (on Wednesday, November 18, 7:30-9:30 p.m., in the Social Room of the Healey Family Student Center, and on Thursday, November 19, 11:30-1:30 p.m. in Riggs Library, in Healy Hall). Please RSVP here.

  • A teach-in will take place on Tuesday, December 1, 4:00-6:00 p.m., in the Social Room of the Healey Family Student Center.

Our goal in these events, and throughout the year, is to encourage robust and honest conversation, to provide a forum where ideas can be exchanged and developed, and to foster a creative response to this shameful part of our history. Listening is where the Working Group begins; the conversation is yours to shape.

With best regards,

Fr. David Collins, S.J., Ph.D., Chair of the Working Group

Ayodele Aruleba (C’17)

Fr. Matthew Carnes, S.J., Ph.D.

Marcia Chatelain, Ph.D.

Haben Fecadu, J.D. (F’08)

Carolyn Forché, M.F.A.

John Glavin, Ph.D. (C’64)

Maurice Jackson, Ph.D. (G’95, G’01)

Rosemary Kilkenny, J.D. (L’87)

Connor Maytnier (C’17)

Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., J.D. (C’88)

Matthew Quallen (F’16)

Adam Rothman, Ph.D.

Daviree Velazquez, M.Ed.

Chris Wadibia (C’16)

Crystal Walker (F’16)