Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Georgetown student will share story of slave ancestors at UIS

Mélisande Short-Colomb started her freshman year at Georgetown University in the fall of 2017. But Short-Colomb’s college path isn’t an ordinary one.

While doing ancestry work, Short-Colomb found that two of her of her maternal ancestors were owned and sold by a Catholic order of priests in Washington, D.C. They were sold in 1838 to keep Georgetown financially afloat. The university gave Short-Colomb “legacy status” and she enrolled as a 63-year-old.

Short-Colomb will speak at the University of Illinois Springfield as part of its Engaged Citizenship Common Experience (ECCE) Speaker Series at Brookens Auditorium on Feb. 24.

As a freshman, Short-Colomb joined other activist students in documenting the university’s slavery history, grappling with the question of reparations, organizing and voting for a restitution fee and debating how to best use the fees. Over the past several years, Georgetown has taken several steps to make amends for its participation in the slave trade, including creating a Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation. Georgetown also issued a formal apology for its slave trading.

The Jesuits of the Maryland Province sold 272 slaves to plantations in Louisiana for what would be about $3.3 million today. Short-Colomb’s ancestors were 16 and 17 years old at the time. “It’s bold for us to have her,” said Justin Rose, director of diversity and inclusion at UIS. “I think it will be a great, sobering discussion.”

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on Feb. 11, 2020.

Read the entire article online.