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Rachel Lucille Swarns
New York University (New York, NY 10012-1019)
The 272: The Story of the Enslaved Families who Fueled the Growth of Georgetown University and the Catholic Church

Writing an account of enslaved people sold by Maryland Jesuits in 1838 to support their college, now known as Georgetown University.

In 1838, the nation’s most prominent Jesuit priests sold 272 enslaved men, women and children in a desperate bid to raise money to ensure the survival of the only Catholic institution of higher learning of the time, the college we now know as Georgetown University. The priests were successful. The profits from the sale helped to save the college from financial ruin, allowing it to flourish and to develop into one of the nation’s elite universities. But that success came at a terrible cost. My book, which will be published by Random House in 2023, will tell the story of the people who were sold, and their descendants, and examine how slavery helped to fuel the growth of the university and the Catholic Church in the United States.

Project fields:
African American History; U.S. History

Public Scholars

Research Programs

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
9/1/2021 – 4/30/2022