“Faith and the Faithful in U.S. Politics”

Holy Trinity

This was the title of a symposium held recently at Holy Trinity Parish in Washington.  The event was sponsored by the Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public Service and the Georgetown’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life.  Speakers included John Carr (Georgetown), Jocelyn Kiley (Pew Research Center),  E.J. Dionne (Washington Post), Peter Wehner (Ethics and Public Policy Center), and Joshua DuBois (former director of White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships).

Here is a taste of an article on the symposium published by Catholic News Service:

Representing the conservative side was panelist Peter Wehner – a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and director of its Faith Angle Forum, and a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and the co-author of City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era.

“I do think Democrats have a problem with religion,” Wehner said. “It’s a party that’s increasingly secular.”

Dionne, who often supports progressive causes in his columns, countered by saying, “Democrats are not a secular party. Most Democrats are part of a religious tradition.”

Wehner noted that the Democratic Party remains a minority party, with Republicans controlling the White House, both houses of Congress, and a majority of governorships and state legislatures, but he added that he thinks Democrats will likely take control of the U.S. House of Representatives after the 2018 mid-term elections.

Read the entire piece here.

Slavery at Princeton University

MacLean House Princeton

Check out Alex Carp‘s piece at The New York Review of Books on slavery and American colleges and universities.  This particular excerpt deals with slavery at Princeton:

Last fall, after more than four years of research, Princeton became the latest university to present its results. Princeton was the site of a George Washington victory over British forces and housed the Continental Congress. All of the university’s founding trustees, and its first nine presidents, owned slaves. Slaves owned by the university’s fifth president—two women, a man, and three children—were auctioned off under the so-called “liberty trees” outside his house, two sycamores planted around the time of the repeal of the Stamp Act and pointed out on campus tours through this year only as evidence of the college’s devotion to the American Revolution. (Princeton is one of the rare American institutions older than its country. The university was on its sixth president by the time the ink dried on the US Constitution.) According to Martha Sandweiss, the historian who led the project, Princeton epitomizes “the paradox at the heart of American history: from the very start, liberty and slavery were intimately intertwined.”

Slavery was not uncommon in New Jersey, and even once abolition began, it took generations to complete. An 1804 law granted emancipation only to New Jersey slaves born after July 4 of that year, and only after they had served what one historian has called a “term” of slavery that could last for as many as twenty-five years. One result of this gradual abolition was that many New Jersey slaveholders sold enslaved children born after that deadline to plantations out of state, which reduced the number of enslaved people in New Jersey without emancipating anyone. Another was the transition to institutions that closely resembled slavery: towns throughout the state established “poorhouse farms,” where the vagrant or indigent would be confined to work or were sometimes rented out. Businessmen traveling from New Brunswick to New York at the turn of the nineteenth century—a trip that could take the better part of three days, generally by carriage and boat—would come across “stray negroes” who could be jailed, then sold to pay jail expenses, if they failed to explain themselves sufficiently. The last child registered for gradual emancipation—a girl named Hannah, born in 1844, before legislators replaced the category with something called “apprentices for life”—remained enslaved until barely two weeks before the Confederacy’s 1865 surrender. Princeton’s entanglement with slavery, Sandweiss said when describing the project’s findings last fall, is “typical of other eighteenth-century institutions. And it makes us quintessentially and deeply American.”

At its best, this wave of research demonstrates the ways in which slavery and its legacies have built the world we live in: how the ideas and institutions born in one era do not entirely cast off the forces that shaped them as they move through time. There is no evidence that Princeton University itself owned slaves, but by the early nineteenth century its main building, Nassau Hall, was adjacent to a private farm where enslaved people tended to cattle and worked in a cherry orchard; on the other side of the building, slaves worked in the taverns and other businesses on Nassau Street. Before they could enroll in courses, prospective students had to pass exams in Latin and Greek administered personally by the president; Sandweiss speculates that students arriving for their exams early on their first morning would be greeted at the president’s doorstep by “an enslaved person—the first person on campus a prospective student might meet.” As the college began to chase planter wealth, its antebellum student body grew disproportionately Southern and repeatedly clashed withPrinceton’s community of free African Americans. The school’s Civil War memorial is one of the very few in the country to list the names of the war dead without noting on which side they fought—Sandweiss knew of only one other, at a boarding school—and the university began to grow to its modern size through gifts from a family fortune made by providing financial and shipping services to Cuban slave plantations until at least 1866, the year after slavery’s abolition in the United States.

Read the entire piece here.

Georgetown University Apologizes

georgetown_1472735166173_1939734_ver1.0

Yesterday Rev. Timothy Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, apologized to more than 100 descendants of slaves who were sold by Jesuit-run Georgetown University in 1838.  The apology was part of a “contrition” liturgy. It was a form of penance.  You can read Kesicki’s remarks here.

In 1838 Georgetown was involved in the sale of 272 slaves from Jesuit plantations in Maryland.  The slaves were sold to help the college pay off its debts.

Here is a taste of Adelle Banks’s article at Religion News Service:

The “Liturgy of Remembrance, Contrition, and Hope” was steeped in symbolism of time and space. It was held two days after Easter, when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and two days after Emancipation Day, a holiday that marks the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia in 1862.

The school decided to name one building Isaac Hawkins Hall, in honor of a slave who was 65 years old when he was sold in 1838. His name was the first of the slaves listed on the sale documents, and most of his children and grandchildren were also sold to Louisiana businessmen.

Hall’s labor and his value helped build Georgetown and rescue it from financial crisis, according to the working group report.

The day’s written program noted that Isaac was the name of a biblical figure who was spared by God, but that the now-honored slave with that name “was not spared. He was sold.”

A second building was designated Anne Marie Becraft Hall, in honor of a free African-American woman who founded a school for Catholic black girls in the Georgetown neighborhood and later joined the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the oldest group of nuns started by women of African descent.

Previously, those buildings were named for the Rev. Thomas Mulledy and the Rev. William McSherry, respectively, former university presidents who were priests and supporters of the slave trade. In 2015, the buildings were temporarily named Freedom Hall and Remembrance Hall.

Read the entire article here.