The Catholic order of Jesuit priests has pledged to raise $100 million for descendants of the enslaved people it owned in what the New York Times reports is "one of the largest efforts by an institution to atone for slavery." The order relied on slave labor and sales for more than a century before "272 enslaved men, women and children were sold by the Jesuit owners of Georgetown University to plantation owners in Louisiana" in 1838 and used as collateral by Citizens Bank of New Orleans, which was later acquired by JPMorgan Chase, according to a statement. To absolve for this legacy, the order has joined with descendants to create a trust to be used "in engaging, promoting and supporting programs and activities that highlight truth, accelerate racial healing and reconciliation, and advance racial justice and equality in America." JPMorgan will serve as a co-trustee, per Axios.
Some $15 million has already been deposited to support the new Descendants Truth & Reconciliation Foundation. Georgetown University, which has raised additional funds for descendants, donated $1 million. While the foundation works to raise the remaining funds, about half of its annual budget will go to groups working at racial reconciliation, and a quarter given to descendants as educational grants and scholarships, per the Times. Genealogists have identified about 5,000 living descendants of people enslaved by the Jesuits, including Joseph Stewart, who now serves as the foundation's acting president. He says it will "set an example and lead America through dismantling the remnants of slavery and mitigating the presence of racism," per the statement. Indeed, MIT historian Craig Steven Wilder tells the Times the move "will put tremendous pressure" on other US institutions "that share this history." (Read more Jesuits stories.)