Campus News

Mélisande Short-Colomb, Descendant of the 'GU272,' Addresses Prep Community


Mélisande Short-Colomb, a descendant of Abraham Mahoney and Mary Ellen Queen, who were two of the 272 enslaved people sold by the Society of Jesus in 1838, addressed the Georgetown Prep student body and faculty and staff on February 23 at a full school assembly. Part of the profits of that sale helped to save Georgetown College (now University) by paying down the crushing debt that threatened the school. At the time of the sale of the 272 enslaved people, Georgetown College and what is now "Georgetown Preparatory School" were the same institution.

In her address to the Prep community, Short-Colomb noted that she learned of her ancestors' connection to Georgetown when she was contacted via Facebook by a genealogist working on tying the descendants of enslaved people to the Georgetown Jesuits in the 1800s. She added, "I am a socially conscious person and knew of The New York Times coverage of the story, but never thought that I could be connected." Short-Colomb added that her attending Georgetown University was "completing a circle" for her family, herself, and the descendant community. She shared with the students her compelling story about growing up in segregated New Orleans. Short-Colomb, also, explained that today, she feels a sense of mission to make the story of her family and the "GU272" better known thereby encouraging conversation about the continuing legacy of slavery in American society.

Speaking to the Prep student body, Short-Colomb said, "You have probably been told time and time again that you are our 'future.' I am here to tell you today that you are our 'now.' You have the power to make a difference." She was an executive chef in New Orleans before enrolling at Georgetown University as a 63-year-old college freshman.

As part of Prep's Year of Reconciliation, the school planned and hosted discussions, presentations, and speakers address the year' theme. Dr. Stephen Ochs, Lawler Chair of History, spoke to the Prep community on November 13, 2017 with students about the connection between Georgetown Prep and the sale in 1838 of 272 enslaved people by the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus. On November 27, the second presentation by Dr. Ochs and Prep students was made to the student body, faculty and staff focusing on the centrality of slavery at Prep between 1789 and 1838. On January 11, Rachel Swarns, a New York Times correspondent since 1995 and author of American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White, and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama, addressed the Georgetown Prep student body and faculty and staff at a full school assembly.

Georgetown Prep will continue the discussion through spring with presentations and speakers in line with this year's theme of reconciliation.