Jesuits to raise $100 million for descendants of slaves
© Screenshot/Descendants Truth & Reconciliation Foundation

U.S. Jesuits are planning to raise $100 million for descendants of those who the Jesuits enslaved and sold.

The Jesuits announced the Descendants Truth & Reconciliation Foundation on Monday, which it said was a “first-of-its-kind” partnership between descendants of slaves and descendants of slave owners.

The New York Times, which first reported the effort, noted that the religious order vowed to raise $100 million and to promote racial reconciliation nationwide. The newspaper reported that genealogists have identified about 5,000 living descendants of those enslaved by the Jesuits, citing the nonprofit Georgetown Memory Project.

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The Jesuits said in a statement that the foundation was rooted in the events of 1838, when the Jesuit owners of Georgetown University sold 272 slaves to owners in southern Louisiana to keep the university from financial ruin. 

The slaves were sold to Citizens Bank of New Orleans, which used the slaves as human collateral.

Citizens Bank was later acquired by JPMorgan Chase. The order said that JPMorgan will serve as a co-trustee of a trust set up for slave descendants.

“Our shameful history of Jesuit slaveholding in the United States has been taken off the dusty shelf, and it can never be put back,” Father Tim Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, said in a statement. “Without this joining of hearts and hands in true unity, the cycle of hatred and inequality in America will never end.”

The effort comes as reparations for slavery becomes a subject of political debate at universities and across the country. Georgetown set up a fund of $400,000 a year in 2019 to address the needs of those descendants.