On March 15, 2021, the Jesuit Conference of the United States and Canada announced an unprecedented agreement to pay $100M to the descendants of people who were once bought, owned and sold by the Jesuit Order. The agreement falls on the heels of a multi-year process of racial healing conversations between the Jesuit Conference and descendants of 272 enslaved men, women and children sold by the Order to a Louisiana plantation in 1838. At that time, proceeds of that sale went to Georgetown University, which was on the brink of financial failure.
The $100M will go to the Descendants Truth & Reconciliation Foundation to support scholarships for future descendants and initiate ongoing racial healing programs.
La June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) helped tell the backstory to Rupa Shenoy of Public Radio International’s The World, along with Father Tim Kesicki and descendant Joe Stewart. They describe how a racial healing process brought the Jesuits and descendants together in a process anchored in the principles of WKKF’s Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation efforts.
We brought two stories, the stories of the Jesuits and the story of the descendants together, and we built a shared story.
Their conversation explores:
- An institution confronting the painful truth of its involvement in the institution of slavery;
- Descendants of the enslaved urging a major institution to understand the harm perpetrated against their ancestors and how the legacy of those dehumanizing practices lives on today;
- What racial healing entails and how conversations grounded in truth-telling can lead to collective action;
- Where the funds committed to the Descendants Foundation will be utilized and how they will establish a new legacy;
- Learnings for other institutions from this precedent-setting process of racial healing and the resulting agreement, as they examine their own involvement in slavery and systemic racism.