I recently collaborated with the Chronicle of Higher Education on story about the 'Georgetown 272' - slaves sold to Louisiana by the Jesuit priests funding Georgetown University in 1838, in order to keep the prestigious university financially afloat. As this history comes to light, a team of genealogists has been contacting the (many) possible descendants of those slaves to reveal these details of their ancestral past. I had the great privilege of photographing 15 of them among the pews at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in the small town of Maringouin, Louisiana. Maringouin was home to one of the major cotton plantations where the Georgetown slaves were sent, and a number of the descendants still live there.
In the days and weeks that followed, I was given the opportunity to sit down with some of the descendants to hear more of their stories about growing up in Maringouin, insights from learning this new information, and reflections on what it all means and what happens next. I'm really proud of the final piece, which offers not just images and writing, but audio stories from the descendants in their own words. Above, you'll find more images from the day, which we couldn't use because we weren't able to interview everyone.
Special thanks to my editor, Erica Lusk, for bringing this work together in such a compelling and media-rich format, and to Philip Yiannopoulos for being my stellar lighting and audio assistant. Thanks also to Jonathan Earle and the LSU students documenting oral histories of the descendants for their joint course with Georgetown, for all of their help pulling this together.
Six individuals who learned that they descended from slaves sold by Georgetown University over 175 years ago reflect on family and life In the early 1830s, Georgetown University was running out of money. To raise funds, two Jesuit priests in charge sold one of their most valuable assets-272 slaves.