John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio, has announced that it is establishing a working group to explore the university’s historical ties to slavery. Robert Niehoff, president of the university, charged the working group with “developing a participative campus process to help us learn about the historical record and to make recommendations about how we acknowledge this history and grow in our commitment to justice for all people.”
John Carroll was the first Catholic bishop in the United States and was a founder of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He owned a least one slave and participated in the management of Jesuit-owned plantations in Maryland.
What is now John Carroll University was founded in 1886 as Saint Ignatius College. It changed its named to Cleveland University in 1923 and once again to John Carroll University in 1927. The university says that this name was changed for “reasons that have never been completely clear.”
President Niehoff in a letter to the campus community wrote that “our facing the legacy of John Carroll relative to what some have called America’s ‘original sin’ is a response to an invitation to us as a University community to do the same: To consider the failures and graces in our history relative to racial justice, starting with our namesake’s participation in chattel slavery.”
Today, the university, located just east of Cleveland, enrolls about 3,150 undergraduate students and more than 500 graduate students. African Americans are 5 percent of the undergraduate student body.
President Niehoff has asked the working group to complete its study and to issue recommendations on what should be done by the fall of 2017.