Announcing the Center for the Study of Slavery and Its Legacies

March 17, 2023

Dear Members of the Georgetown University Community: 

It is my privilege to announce the formation of the Georgetown Center for the Study of Slavery and Its Legacies and the appointment of founding director, Adam Rothman, Ph.D., professor in the Department of History and curator of the Georgetown Slavery Archive. 

The Center was first envisioned by the Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation, a group of faculty, staff, students, and alumni formed in 2015 to engage the University community in a process of reflection about Georgetown’s involvement in slavery and to make recommendations for future action. The Working Group recommended an academic home for the study of slavery to catalyze research, teaching, and public engagement in order to strengthen our understanding of our own past, deepen the knowledge and resources available to Descendants about their ancestors who were enslaved on Jesuit plantations or on Georgetown’s campus, and help support our University’s ongoing process of reconciliation.

In recent years, Dr. Rothman, along with faculty and staff colleagues, graduate and undergraduate students, library colleagues, Descendants, and other partners, have built the foundation for the creation of this Center. The Georgetown Slavery Archive (GSA), established by Dr. Rothman and the Working Group in 2016, has become an internationally recognized repository of materials relating to the Maryland Jesuits, Georgetown, and slavery, including more than 450 digital images, transcriptions, podcasts, oral histories, and student research projects.

Dr. Rothman has taught a course on Georgetown and Slavery since 2017, led student visits to the sites of the former Jesuit plantations in Maryland, and accompanied students to Maringouin, Louisiana, where many Descendants live. He recently co-edited the volume Facing Georgetown’s History: A Reader on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation with Elsa Barraza Mendoza (G’21), published by Georgetown University Press. The GSA collaborates closely with the Booth Family Center for Special Collections at Lauinger Library and has put on numerous events, hosted presentations for Descendant families, and held annual programming around D.C. Emancipation Day, including transcription events, where participants have had the opportunity to transcribe historical documents. Fellows associated with the GSA have conducted archival research, taught courses related to slavery and its legacies, and developed high school lesson plans. 

A highly sought-after teacher and lecturer, Dr. Rothman is also the author of the award-winning book, Beyond Freedom’s Reach: A Kidnapping in the Twilight of Slavery (2015), which was named a Humanities Book of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and recognized with the American Civil War Museum’s book award and the Margaret T. Lane/Virginia F. Saunders Memorial Research Award from the American Library Association. His previous works include Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South (2005) and Major Problems in Atlantic History (2007), which he co-authored with fellow Georgetown historian Alison Games. 

In 2018, he served as Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, creating a four-part podcast, African-American Passages: Black Lives in the 19th Century, which explores the lives of three African Americans in the 19th century through the lens of the Library of Congress archives. 

The Center for the Study of Slavery and Its Legacies will be guided by a distinguished group of Georgetown faculty colleagues who bring a variety of disciplinary perspectives. The Center will support rigorous faculty and student research, innovative teaching, creative projects, and collaborative programs that sustain Georgetown’s commitment to facing our history. 

On Saturday, March 18, the Center will host its first program: a two-part event on the Music of New Orleans with a screening of the film City of a Million Dreams, directed by Jason Berry (C’71), and a performance by the Dr. Michael White Quartet, featuring clarinetist Dr. Michael White, one of New Orleans’ most acclaimed musicians and the Rosa and Charles Keller Endowed Chair in the Humanities of New Orleans Music and Culture at Xavier University of Louisiana. I invite you to attend these events or to visit the Center’s website for a recording of the discussion.

We look forward to formally recognizing the Center with a special launch event in the fall. 

Please join me in congratulating Dr. Rothman on this appointment. I wish to express my deep gratitude to him for his leadership, and I look forward to the contributions he will make through this important new center for our community.  


John J. DeGioia