About the Center

The vision for a Center for the Study of Slavery and Its Legacies was first articulated by the Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation, in their 2016 report, which recommended the creation of “an Institute for the Study of Slavery and Its Legacies at Georgetown to coordinate scholarly research, curricular development, and public programs about the history of slavery and its legacies at Georgetown, in Washington, D.C., and its surroundings, and in Catholic America.”

The Center builds on the work of the Georgetown Slavery Archive (GSA), initially created by the Working Group’s Archive sub-committee in early 2016, and expanded in recent years through the work of GSA director Adam Rothman and students, Descendants, faculty, and staff. The GSA digitizes and organizes materials related to the Maryland Jesuits, Georgetown University, and slavery. It currently includes over 450 digitized items, organized into collections such as Descendants’ Stories, Slavery at Georgetown College, and Slavery in the Maryland Province. Prior to the GSA, the Jesuit Plantation Project, an earlier electronic archives project by American Studies students and faculty at Georgetown first digitized materials from the Maryland Province Archives and slaveholding.

The Georgetown University Library is also home to a core of activity and resources that bring research about the University’s history to life and make it accessible for students, faculty, Descendants, researchers, and the public. This includes archives, collections, events, instruction, and outreach activities. In 2023, archivists completed a multi-year effort to digitize and create a new finding aid for the Archives of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, on deposit at Georgetown University’s Library. The Library’s work enhances access to and supports the use of these important historical records.

Other academic and research initiatives in Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation have progressed in the years since the Working Group completed their charge, including new coursework, co-curricular student opportunities, artistic projects, and public history programming. The Center will now help bring together existing University academic and research efforts and help support their ongoing work.

Slavery and its legacies surely qualifies as a complex moral problem that requires interdisciplinary forms of study: not just history but government and law, economics, philosophy, theology, and literature and art, just to name a few. An Institute for the Study of Slavery and Its Legacies at Georgetown would be an integral part of a robust African-American Studies milieu, and might ally with the Center for Social Justice, the Prisons and Justice Initiative, and others dedicated to examining enduring questions of racism and inequality in the United States and elsewhere.

Report of the Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation