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Dr. John J. DeGioia and Dr. Ruth Simmons: Confronting the Legacy of Slavery

Georgetown University and Brown University have taken significant steps in recent years to address historical associations with slavery. Dr. John J. DeGioia, president of Georgetown, and Dr. Ruth Simmons, president emerita of Brown, discuss efforts to lead their institutions to an acknowledgement and deeper understanding of that history, and a sense of how to reckon with it today. 

President DeGioia, on his calling to atone for Georgetown’s history: “I can’t go back and fix something of [the past]. But what I can do is hold us accountable in this moment for the fact that we’re living with the enduring legacy of slavery and subsequent segregation, and we never ameliorated the original evil in the mid-part of the 19th Century. And so we still live with the consequences of that failure now.”

Dr. Simmons, on the valuable lessons society can learn from examining this history: “We are not really done thinking about who we are as a country, what we are as a country, what our values are, what we’re prepared to stand for, but most importantly what we’re prepared to stand against. We’re not done yet.  It’s an active process.”