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Georgetown University To Rename Buildings Named After Slaveowners

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Georgetown University here in Washington is one of many U.S. campuses seeing protests over race relations. The Jesuit school is one of a handful of colleges that were financed in part by the sale of slaves. After a protest last week, university officials have accepted students' demands for action. Michael Pope of member station WAMU has the story.

MICHAEL POPE, BYLINE: Many students here say they were disappointed to learn that two buildings on Georgetown's campus have a dark history. The buildings were named in honor of former university presidents who financed a capital campaigned by selling 272 slaves. Several students staged a sit-in last week, and over the weekend university officials took action to strip the buildings of their names. Junior Alexa Pereda says she agrees with the decision.

ALEXA PEREDA: I think that the students were really able to make a stance for the issue and bring change to something that they thought was unjust.

POPE: Back in August, Georgetown's president put together a working group to examine the history and make recommendations for the future. That group is led by history professor David Collins.

DAVID COLLINS: One of the things that we're learning in the United States in general is how much of a connection there is between our institutions of higher learning and slaveholding.

POPE: Georgetown is not alone. Many institutions of higher learning were financed in part by the sale of slaves. But junior Carl Thomas says he's not sure changing the names of buildings is necessary.

CARL THOMAS: We got to remember that a lot of people, even, like, people like Thomas Jefferson and all that were men on their times. So even though it was wrong in our eyes now, it wasn't necessarily wrong then.

POPE: For now, the buildings here have new interim names - Freedom Hall and Remembrance Hall. That's until Georgetown decides what to call them permanently. For NPR News, I'm Michael Pope in Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.