Georgetown Receives Grant to Study Racial Justice
$1.5 million grant to fund new initiatives

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a private organization offering grants in part to colleges and universities, granted Georgetown University $1.5 million to help establish new racial justice initiatives on campus.

The grant, announced by Georgetown on Feb. 13, was received Dec. 8.
Starting in 2017, the grant will help fund two faculty positions, two postdoctoral fellows for two-year appointments, two five-year Patrick Healy Graduate Fellowships to graduate students in the humanities and a lecture series on racial justice.

Provost Robert Groves, professor Gwen Mikell and associate professor Robert Patterson, who are all co-chairs for the Working Group on Racial Justice, submitted the proposal.

Groves said the grant will help Georgetown achieve its goal of researching racial justice.

“Georgetown is committed to expanding scholarship to address the persistent, enduring legacy of racism and segregation in the American experience,” Groves wrote in an email to The Hoya. “The Mellon Foundation, by this grant, helps us advance this work to support new faculty positions, funding for graduate students and further scholarship and engagement.”

According to Senior Director for Strategic Communications Rachel Pugh, the money will also support the university’s efforts to address its history with slavery. The university benefitted from the sale of 272 slaves to a Louisiana plantation in 1838.

“A center for racial justice could also include an academic home for researching slavery and its legacies, as recommended by the Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation and is something the racial justice working group is exploring,” Pugh wrote in an email to The Hoya.

These advances come at a time of increased discussion of racial justice in the political sphere and renewed attention regarding the university’s historical relationship with slavery. Last year, University President John J. DeGioia announced the university would remove the names of two campus buildings, named after University President Fr. Thomas Mulledy, S.J., who authorized the sale of 272 slaves to a Louisiana plantation in 1838, and former University President Fr. William McSherry, S.J., who served as Mulledy’s lawyer during the sale.

The structures are now named for Isaac Hawkins, one of the slaves sold in 1838, and Anne Marie Becraft, the founder of a school in Georgetown for black girls in the 19th century.

The Mellon Foundation has a long history with Georgetown University. Its mission is to promote the humanities for diverse and democratic societies. The foundation gave its first grant to the university in 1970, and has given over 30 grants since then. This most recent grant was the largest ever — at three times larger than the second-largest grant.

The foundation’s co-chairs will coordinate the use of its funds.

The Mellon Foundation categorized the grant to Georgetown as part of its Diversity Program, which aims to support initiatives that diversify the faculty of higher education institutes and to help universities that strive to expand the attainability of education for historically underrepresented groups.

Vice President of Advancement Bart Moore (SFS ’87) said the grant symbolizes a potential for future methods of funding new academic programs.

“We’re very pleased to have received this grant, mainly because it will support very important work on racial justice,” Moore wrote in an email to The Hoya. “But also because it embodies the increasing role we anticipate institutional philanthropy will play in funding specific strategic ambitions that advance the academic mission of the university.”

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