The Booth Family Center for Special Collections has played a central role in the development of the Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation Initiative at Georgetown University. When the university's SMR Working Group conducted its research in 2015, it urged for greater attention to be paid to key documents held in Booth. The Archives of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, for example, documents Jesuit slaveholding and the Province's 1838 sale of 272 enslaved individuals, while the University Archives holds records documenting enslaved people who worked on campus . Since that time, Booth staff have been assessing their collections, identifying important documents and works of art to add to their collection, and digitizing collections to make them accessible to faculty, students, researchers, and descendants of those enslaved by the Jesuits and the College.
This guide describes significant sources within the Art, Manuscripts, Rare Books, and University Archives units of Booth for scholarly research and public conversations about slavery and race. The collections created by the Maryland Jesuits warrant special consideration because of the legacy of their participation in slavery and their role in the Christianization of Black people. The work of Booth is ongoing and updates will be made to this guide as the assessments of existing collections, collecting initiatives, and digitization projects progress.
Electronic resources -- including Lauinger databases and digital projects led by Georgetown researchers and outside scholars -- further extend the possibilities for the study of slavery and emancipation by Georgetown students and faculty. The digitized manuscript collections, computational data, and genealogical resources provided in these resources can help researchers answer questions about the experiences of the enslaved outside of Maryland and throughout the United States.
In September 2015, Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia convened a working group comprised of faculty, students, alumni, and administrators to make recommendations on how best to acknowledge and recognize the historic relationship to slavery; examine and interpret the history of sites on campus; and convene events to provide opportunity for dialogue on campus. During the following academic year, the Working Group studied this history, creating the Georgetown Slavery Archive, a digital archive of primary source documents that reveal the truth of Georgetown's relationship to slavery. The Working Group also discussed steps that the University could take to ensure that the sale of more than 272 people in 1838 would never again be obscured in University histories or forgotten by its community.
The report of the Working Group, formally accepted by President DeGioia at a public address on September 1, 2016, has become a touchstone for students, faculty, and administrators interested in confronting Georgetown's history and the moral imperative of reconciliation. The staff of Lauinger Library is committed to implementing the vision described in the Working Group report by preserving the collections documenting Georgetown's involvement in slavery and racism, improving digital access to these documents, using inclusive language in its description, promoting the use of these documents in the classroom, and engaging with GU272 descendants and the local Black community.
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