College Students and Reparations: A Georgetown University Slavery Descendant’s Story - Mélisande Short-Colomb
From Jeff Sudduth on February 26th, 2020
Co-Sponsored by the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Department of Women and Gender Studies, Diversity Center, Black Student Union, UIS Black History Month Academic Ad Hoc Committee, Brookens Library, Department of Political Science, Global Studies, and the UIS Office of Access and Equal Opportunity
What are arguments for and against reparations for slavery, and what might restitution look like? How are some of America’s finest universities and college students closely connected to slavery? UIS welcomes Mélisande Short-Colomb, who was recently informed that her ancestors were two of 272 enslaved people owned by the Jesuits of Georgetown U. and sold in 1838 to keep the university afloat. Granted legacy status and enrolling at Georgetown, she joined students in documenting the university’s slavery history, grappling with the reparations question, organizing and voting for a semesterly restitution fee, and debating how to best use the fees. Learn about and discuss this concrete example of college students, alumni, a campus community and restitution with “Meli”.
Mélisande Short-Colomb is a descendant of Abraham Mahoney and Mary Ellen Queen, two of the 272 enslaved people sold by the Society of Jesus in 1838. The profits of that sale helped to save Georgetown University by paying down the crushing debt that threatened the school. She learned of her ancestors’ connection to Georgetown when she was contacted by a genealogist working on tying the descendants of enslaved people to the Georgetown Jesuits. In 2017, Mélisande Short-Colomb became a freshman at Georgetown U. at age 63, an activist, and a passionate student of History. Mélisande grew up in Louisiana, where her ancestors were “sold down the river” from Maryland, worked as a professional chef, and is a survivor of Hurricane Katrina. She and her remarkable story and perspective have been featured on CNN, Forbes Magazine, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.