The Slavery, History, Memory and Reconciliation (SHMR) Project seeks to know and to share the history of Jesuit slaveholding in the United States. We learn more every day about the lives and experiences of the enslaved men and women whose unfree labor helped establish and sustain Jesuit missions and colleges in places like Missouri, Maryland, Kentucky, Louisiana and Alabama.
The institution of slavery left a legacy of obstacles to tracing genealogies in the present. Records about enslaved populations are often incomplete or scarce and where records do exist, they can be inconsistent. Those who engaged in the buying and selling of human beings often changed the names of the enslaved. Families were forcibly separated. After emancipation, some formerly enslaved people chose new names, while others retained the names they had at the time.
Researchers working with the Slavery, History, Memory and Reconciliation Project recognize these challenges and they are committed to working together with descendants to uncover the stories of their ancestors. As we continue our research, we seek not only to share with descendants of the enslaved what we know about their families’ histories, but also to listen to and learn from them about their families’ stories, past and present.
We are committed to a transformative process of truth-telling, reconciliation and healing that, in conversation with the descendants of those held in bondage, acknowledges historical harms, seeks to repair relationships and works within our communities to address the legacies of slavery that persist in the form of racial inequality today.