The university plans to rename Freedom Hall as Isaac Hawkins Hall in late April, in honor of the first enslaved person recorded in the 1838 sale of the 272 slaves that benefitted Georgetown.
University President John J. DeGioia announced the university’s intention to rename Freedom and Remembrance Halls as Isaac and Anne Marie Beecraft Halls in September, as part of a series of plans to address the university’s history with slavery.
The change to rename Freedom Hall was announced to residential assistants and residents of Ryan and Freedom Halls yesterday in an email from University Chief of Staff Joe Ferrara. The dedication ceremony will occur with the university’s Emancipation Day celebrations April 18.
The university has not yet announced its plans for the formal renaming of Remembrance Hall as Anne Marie Beecraft Hall.
The university also announced in September that it would offer descendants of the 272 who apply to Georgetown legacy status in admissions, and has established an institute to research slavery and its aftermath.
The two halls that constitute the Former Jesuit Residence were first renamed from Mulledy Hall and McSherry Hall after a series of student protests and a sit-in in DeGioia’s office in November 2015. Former University President Thomas Mulledy, S.J., authorized the sale of the 272 slaves to a Louisiana plantation, while former University President William McSherry, S.J., served as Mulledy’s lawyer during the sale.
Historical research conducted by the university indicated Isaac’s last name as Hawkins, even though no documents show the last name, according to Ferrara’s email.
History professor Adam Rothman, who is a member of the Working Group on Slavery, Memory and Reconciliation, said genealogical research showed Hawkins was the patriarch of the Hawkins family.
“On the Jesuit records, his name is just Isaac; he’s not recorded with a last name,” Rothman said. “But the more research that was done and incorporating the perspectives of the descendants themselves, it’s clear that he is the patriarch of his family. Even though his last name is not recorded, in archival material, his children and grandchildren are all Hawkins.”
The university initially consulted the descendants of the 272 on renaming Freedom Hall to Isaac Hall, rather than Isaac Hawkins Hall, earlier this year, according to Patricia Bayonne Johnson, a descendant of one of the 272 slaves.
Johnson said the naming has significance beyond simply renaming a building.
“We’ve been in the shadows so long so now that this has full exposure of the Jesuit slaveholdings we took to making things as clear as possible,” Johnson said. “Isaac Hawkins was a slave a long time ago, but they need to use the full name.”
Rothman said the Working Group made the recommendation to rename the buildings to help highlight Georgetown’s relationship with slavery.
“We thought it was important to come up with new names for the buildings that didn’t erase the history, but brought attention to the buildings in a different kind of way,” Rothman said. “And naming the buildings after one of the GU 272 would be one of the ways of highlighting aspects of Georgetown’s history that have been unknown or hidden for a long time.”
Johnson said recognizing someone’s surname simultaneously recognizes their humanity.
“Without the surname, he could be anybody,” Bayonne Johnson said. “In this country, the naming pattern is to have a first and a last name; it’s important to you.”
Correction: This article previously stated Remembrance Hall would be renamed as Anne Marie Beechcraft Hall; the hall will be renamed as Anne Marie Becraft Hall.
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