Did their school have ties to slavery? Now students try to make sense of the answer.

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tags: slavery, Gonzaga College High School



The boy’s name was Gabriel, and he was a slave. Once, he was tipped less than seven cents for weeding the garden at the Washington Seminary in Northwest Washington. Another time, he was given 12 cents for reasons unknown.

Any knowledge of Gabriel was lost until six students from Gonzaga College High School — the later incarnation of Washington Seminary — decided to research their school’s history and its potential ties to slavery. They spent two weeks this past summer mining archival material, their quest mirroring research conducted previously at Georgetown University and other schools that had discovered their institutions bore the stain of slavery.

That earlier research showed how Georgetown had profited from Jesuit-owned plantations that thrived across the region. What about our school, the Gonzaga students wondered. Did it, too, benefit from, and help sustain, the global slave trade of the 19th century?

They found their answers: Profit from those plantations was funneled to Washington Seminary, which at the time was part of Georgetown. And two slaves — Gabriel and another named Isaih — worked at the school for an unknown period of time.

Now, the 16- and 17-year-old students are left to grapple with this complicated and troubling history.




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