African Americans have long lived with unanswered questions about their roots, holes in their family trees and stubborn silences from elders reluctant to delve into a painful past rooted in slavery. This month, scores of black readers wrote to us, saying they had finally found clues in a most unlikely place: An article published in The New York Times.
The story I wrote described the sale of 272 enslaved African Americans in 1838. The men, women and children were owned by the nation’s most prominent Jesuit priests. And they were sold – for about $3.3 million in today’s dollars – to help the college now known as Georgetown University stay afloat.
We asked readers to contact us if they suspected that their ancestors were among those slaves, who had labored on Jesuit plantations in Maryland before being sold to new owners in Louisiana.
With the help of Judy Riffel, a genealogist hired by the Georgetown Memory Project, a group dedicated to supporting and identifying the descendants of the slaves, we were able to confirm the ancestry of several respondents. For this issue of Race/Related, we decided to simply share their stories.


Read on: Race/Related

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