Archives of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus
Extent: 142.75 lin. ft.
The Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus originated in 1633 as a small mission to minister primarily among English and Irish Catholic gentry who colonized Maryland to secure freedom of worship and ownership of property without civil restraint. Like other Jesuit missions, the Maryland community financed its operations by establishing large plantations that produced a staple crop for export and exploited the labor of enslaved men, women, and children. At the site of each of these plantations, they also established a house that served as both a residence for Jesuit missionaries, the site of a church, and the center of the broader Catholic community.
Commonly referred to as the Maryland Province Archives (MPA), this collection holds the administrative and financial records of the Province that document the acquisition of real estate, the settlement of tobacco plantations, ownership of enslaved people, the lease arrangements with tenant farmers and sharecroppers, profits and losses, and the distribution of earnings to Jesuit institutions, including Georgetown College. These records also document controversies over slavery within the Society, most notably over potential slave sales including the twenty-year long debate that ultimately led to the 1838 decision in to sell more than 272 people to pay off the debts of Georgetown College and finance the Province's expansion.
Although not comprehensive, the house records include sacramental records that document the participation of enslaved people, free Blacks, and freedpeople. The house diaries maintained by the priests at each residence describe organizational efforts, including the formation of schools, sodalities and beneficial societies among Black people that were typically racially segregated after emancipation.
Listed below are some of the most significant documents related to the Province's involvement with slavery and its racist legacy. These documents are arranged roughly in chronological order, by historical period. They are linked to their description in the published finding aid.
Colonial British America
Old Records Book compiled by George Thorold, S.J.; Peter Attwood, S.J.; and George Hunter, S.J., 1632-1815, consisting of copies of letters and deeds as well as financial accounts; mission rules and regulations that address Sabbath dispensations for enslaved people; descriptions of real estate properties; and a list of enslaved children born at Port Tobacco between 1755-1777
Records Book by James Walton, S.J., 1765-1799, a volume created during his management of Newtown and St. Inigoes consisting of financial records that include entries documenting the work and hiring out of enslaved people and records of baptisms, marriages, and burials of white and enslaved people
Early National and Antebellum Periods
Reconstruction and Jim Crow
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 4.0 International License. | Details of our policy