With Georgetown University’s history of slavery in the news, Adam Rothman discussed the sources and facts of that history earlier this week:
“Rothman, an associate professor of history at Georgetown, spoke about documents found in the university archives that document the transaction that sent 272 slaves from the Jesuits’ Maryland plantation to former Louisiana governor (later U.S. Congressman) Henry Johnson and his associate Jesse Beatty.
Entries from 1813 and 1814 in the diary of Rev. John McElroy, S.J., offer insight into the connections the Jesuits had with slavery, and the articles of agreement between Mulledy and Johnson and Beatty detail the terms of the sale: $115,000 to be paid in a series of installments. Rothman estimated that in today’s dollars the amount would be equivalent to, conservatively, $3 million.
“Humans were transformed into commodities,” he said.
Rothman highlighted another document, an 1848 letter from James Van de Velde, S.J., of St. Louis, who inquired into the circumstances of the slaves who were sold. Van de Velde found that their families had been separated and that they had not been given ample opportunity to practice their religion, violations of the terms in the articles of agreement.
Rothman pointed out that while these documents are vitally important to the understanding of Georgetown’s involvement in slavery, they only tell one side of the story…”