Would the Rev. Patrick Healy, Who Passed for White, Want to Be Celebrated as a Black Hero?

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, Slavery, United States on 2021-04-18 23:14Z by Steven

Would the Rev. Patrick Healy, Who Passed for White, Want to Be Celebrated as a Black Hero?

Faithfully Magazine

Alexandria Griffin, Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion
New College of Florida, Sarasota, Florida

Father Patrick Francis Healy, S.J., was the first African American to receive a doctorate degree and the first to be president of a predominantly White university when he became president of Georgetown University in 1872. (Photo: Blake Photography/Public domain)

Patrick Healy never directly addressed questions of what his racial identity might have been in the written record he left behind. However, he wrote on a few occasions about “blacks” or “negroes” in a tone that seems to indicate that he saw them as a group he did not belong to.

In 2015 and 2016, Georgetown University became enmeshed in conversations about race taking place at college campuses across the United States. At Georgetown, conversation centered on the institution’s history with slavery, which had been an integral part of its early years, with much of the labor on campus falling to enslaved people.

The focus was the sale of 272 enslaved African Americans in 1838, a sale undertaken by Jesuits Thomas F. Mulledy and William McSherry with the intent to accrue enough money to pay off some of the school’s debts and keep it open. This sale resulted in the breakup of numerous families, and the majority were sold into the Deep South, where they were subjected to harsher conditions of forced agricultural labor. The sale was controversial at the time but eventually largely faded from the memory of White Catholics. (As Shannen Dee Williams, historian at Villanova University and originator of the Twitter hashtag #BlackHistoryIsCatholicHistory, has pointed out, what many people now think of as new information about religious orders owning enslaved people never faded from the memories of Black Catholics.)

Moreover, discussion also included broader issues around Georgetown’s relationship to slavery, including buildings named after slaveholding faculty, and on what actions might be taken to acknowledge and make amends for this history. A number of initiatives grew out of this; a working group made archival resources on slavery at Georgetown available online and researched the fates of those sold in 1838, the school held an apology ceremony attended by community members and descendants of those sold, and buildings named after Mulledy and McSherry were renamed. Additionally, the school opted to grant descendants of those sold in 1838 preferential admission. More recently, students voted to add a student fee to go toward reparations for descendants of those enslaved at Georgetown. The future of the fee and how or whether it will be implemented remains uncertain. The university has recently committed to raising $400,000 annually toward reparations, which some students feel is too little.

Patrick Francis Healy: Legally Enslaved, Passing for White

One figure has been strangely absent from this conversation: Patrick Francis Healy, the university’s 29th president. In November of 1853, Healy, then a young Jesuit in training, sent a letter to an older Jesuit and mentor, George Fenwick. He wrote from his teaching post at College of the Holy Cross: “Father, I will be candid with you. Placed in a college as I am, are boys who were well acquainted with by sight or hearsay, with me + my brothers, remarks are sometimes made (then if not in my hearing) which wound my very heart. You know to what I refer. The anxiety of mind caused by these is very intense.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Instead, it’s because he was born mixed-race, on a Georgia plantation, to a wealthy Irish father who looked after his welfare and paid tuition for several children to attend Catholic schools, that the brilliant Patrick Healy could become the Jesuit university’s most celebrated President.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2020-09-12 01:08Z by Steven

Had [Patrick Francis] Healy been born in Maryland, he could have been sold along with the 272 individuals Georgetown [University] President Thomas Mulledy sold in 1838. Instead, it’s because he was born mixed-race, on a Georgia plantation, to a wealthy Irish father who looked after his welfare and paid tuition for several children to attend Catholic schools, that the brilliant Patrick Healy could become the Jesuit university’s most celebrated President. The black lives held in bondage by the Jesuits in 1838 did not matter to Mulledy. Healy and his brothers, however, did matter to him.

Bryan Greene, “Born Enslaved, Patrick Francis Healy ‘Passed’ His Way to Lead Georgetown University,” Smithsonian Magazine, September 8, 2020. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/born-enslaved-patrick-francis-healy-passed-his-way-lead-georgetown-university-180975738/.

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Born Enslaved, Patrick Francis Healy ‘Passed’ His Way to Lead Georgetown University

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, Slavery, United States on 2020-09-11 02:22Z by Steven

Born Enslaved, Patrick Francis Healy ‘Passed’ His Way to Lead Georgetown University

Smithsonian Magazine

Bryan Greene
Washington, D.C.

Because the 19th-century college president appeared white, he was able to climb the ladder of the Jesuit community

This back-to-school season, as the coronavirus pandemic demands continued social distancing, many college students are logging onto their classes remotely. While the country fights this public health crisis on one front, it fights the ongoing effects of systemic racism on another, and the battle is joined on America’s college campuses, where skyrocketing tuition costs, debates over academic freedom, and reckonings with the legacies of institutional racism come together.

The University of North Carolina, for instance, has had to tackle both crises this summer, as it shuttered dorms and sent students home after Covid-19 cases spiked soon after opening. In July, administrators approved guidelines for renaming buildings that currently honor North Carolinians who promoted the murderous 1898 overthrow of Wilmington’s elected multiracial government. In June, meanwhile, Princeton acceded to longstanding demands to strip Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school, since his most notorious public policy as President of the United States was to segregate the federal workforce. Following the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, an ever-widening circle of students on campuses nationwide are re-examining their institutions’ unquestioned genuflection to their white-supremacist heritage.

But at Georgetown University, students, faculty, alumni, and administration have been re-appraising the school’s racist past for years. In 1838, when the Jesuit school was deep in debt, its president, Reverend Thomas F. Mulledy, on behalf of the Maryland Jesuits, sold 272 black men, women and children to Louisiana plantations to keep the school afloat. Three years ago, Georgetown pulled Mulledy’s name off a dormitory, replacing it with the name of enslaved laborer Isaac Hawkins. Georgetown will now consider applicants who are descendants of these enslaved persons in the same light as the children of faculty, staff and alumni for purposes of admission.

What makes Georgetown’s reflective moment most remarkable, however, and complicated, is that 35 years after Mulledy salvaged the school’s finances by selling human property, the school would be led by a man who, himself, was born enslaved. The story of Georgetown president Reverend Patrick Francis Healy reveals how a university built by enslaved persons, and rescued from collapse by the sale of enslaved persons, saw its “second founding” in the late 19th century under the guidance of a man whom the Jesuits knew had been born black but helped “pass” as white

Read the entire article here.

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On the Record: Georgetown and the racial identity of President Patrick Healy

Posted in Articles, Biography, Campus Life, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, United States on 2016-12-23 02:15Z by Steven

On the Record: Georgetown and the racial identity of President Patrick Healy

The Georgetown Voice

Patrick Healy

Matt Sheptuck (COL ’10) is an American Studies major writing his senior thesis, which explores how Georgetown University has perceived Jesuit Father Patrick Healy’s racial identity over the years. In his research Sheptuck found that Healy, whom many of us know as the first African-American President of Georgetown and one of the first black presidents of any major American university, was understood as white for much of the University’s history, until beginning in the 1960s, when Georgetown began to “market” Healy as black.

Sheptuck says he isn’t “overtly condemnatory” of the University’s history, knowing that how they framed Healy was a product of the times. But he proposes that going forward, Georgetown doesn’t need to relegate Healy’s racial identity to the “one-dimensional” white or black designation, and should present him as the complex man he was. He also thinks Georgetown needs to look closely at its relationship with race in America in the past. Intrigued by his research, Vox caught up with Sheptuck on Tuesday to learn more.

Vox Populi: So tell me a little about your thesis.

Matt Sheptuck: I’m looking at how the University’s changing racial conceptualization of Patrick Healy’s identity fit in relation to how the University thought about race in general. And what I’ve found in my research about Healy, who was president from 1874 – 1882, is two main periods from the 1880s, when Healy resigned as president, up to the present, in which the University talked about his racial identity differently…

Read the interview here.

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Father Healy’s Imprint: Past, Present and Future

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, Slavery, United States on 2016-01-31 02:45Z by Steven

Father Healy’s Imprint: Past, Present and Future

The Hoya
Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

Moises Mendoza

Every day thousands of students pass by Healy Hall and marvel at its towering steeples and complex intricacies. Few of them realize that the man responsible for this Georgetown trademark was every bit as complex and dynamic as the building bearing his name today.

As the first black president of a predominantly white university, Fr. Patrick Healy, S.J., revolutionized Georgetown and helped build firm foundations for a young university.

Yet Healy’s trek to greatness began not in the hallowed halls of academia, but on the Georgia cotton plantation where he was born on Feb. 27, 1834. The son of an Irish Catholic and a biracial domestic slave, Healy had great obstacles to overcome. Healy’s father Michael immigrated to the United States from Ireland through Canada around 1815. Experiencing great success in a series of land lotteries, he moved to Macon, Ga., where he built his own cotton plantation with the help of 49 slaves. Michael Healy became relatively prosperous and became a prominent businessman in the Macon community…

Read the entire article here.

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QUALLEN: Healy’s Inner Turmoil, Our Current Conflict

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, History, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, Slavery, United States on 2016-01-31 02:31Z by Steven

QUALLEN: Healy’s Inner Turmoil, Our Current Conflict

The Hoya
Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

Matthew Quallen, “Hoya Historian”
School of Foreign Service

Last week, President DeGioia accepted a recommendation to scrub the names Mulledy and McSherry from university buildings. The names Freedom and Remembrance took their places. Mulledy and McSherry symbolized what was most odious about Georgetown and the Maryland Jesuits’ history — the conclusion of a century of contest and deliberation about slavery, manumission and race with a mad dash towards a propitious sale.

By contrast, Healy Hall and its namesake, Fr. Patrick Healy, stand as foils in our memory. Healy, after all, was the first black president of a predominantly white institution, as the accolade goes. But for Healy, who desperately toed the opposite side of the color line the situation, was more complicated.

Fr. Patrick Healy was born in 1834 to Mary Eliza — a biracial former slave who had been purchased out of captivity by her soon-to-be husband, Michael. Michael Healy owned 49 slaves on a plantation in Macon, Ga. It was from his mother Mary Eliza that Patrick Healy inherited his vital if contrived one drop rule, which legally classified an individual as black if they possessed even “one drop” of black blood for the purposes of racially discriminating statutes. In his home state, the law considered Patrick Healy to be a slave (such status was usually maternal). So his selection as president of Georgetown in 1873 was nothing short of remarkable. It encapsulates a story of a rise to prominence unexpected for a black American in the mid-19th century. It also mistakenly post-dates Georgetown’s racial progress to 1873, although that transformation came much later…

Read the entire article here.

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A British Ireland, or the limits of race and hybridity in Maria Edgeworth’s novels

Posted in Dissertations, Europe, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2012-08-27 01:38Z by Steven

A British Ireland, or the limits of race and hybridity in Maria Edgeworth’s novels

Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.
73 pages

Kimberly Philomen Clarke

A Thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of Georgetown University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in English

Ireland was united with Wales, Scotland, and England in 1801. However, separated by distance, religion, British prejudice, and Ireland’s colonial status, Ireland was excluded from identifying with the British. Anglo-Irish author Maria Edgeworth actively works against this image of Irish subjection as she displaces Irish colonial otherness on to Creole, West Indian, and Africanist character associated with black imagery. Instead of making Ireland a metaphor for Anglo-colonial relations, Edgeworth positions the Creole and black characters as a colonial figures who cannot satisfactorily become British.

Table of Contents



Hybridity, a blending or cross-breeding of cultures, elements or race, defines the twenty-first century, and not simply through hybrid technology in the types of cars we drive. Most notably, in November 2008, the United States elected its first biracial president who has become a conspicuous symbol of America’s growing multicultural and multiracial society. This prevalence of racial and cultural hybridity in Western society symbolizes a desire for this diversity even while it catalyzes existing fears of such multiracial mingling. These are not new fears, nor are they present only in American society. This uneasy relationship with racial hybridity appears in the nineteenth-century literature of Anglo-Irish author Maria Edgeworth in her exploration and analysis of whiteness and Irish cultural and racial identity in Britain.

The similarities between twenty-first century and nineteenth-century attitudes about hybridity elucidate Edgeworth’s racial politics and the continued relevancy of racial identity – both its fixity and fluidity – in the construction of a national identity. Her novels reflect her desire to legitimize and resolve her Anglo-Irish identity (her loyalty to England and her emotional ties to Ireland) as well as her struggle to define British racial and cultural makeup at a time when Britain’s literary voice and national complexion became more diverse from within and from influences beyond its own borders.

My understanding of Edgeworth’s novels and her approach to race in Britain has been influenced by my understanding of the relationship between the Irish-American and African-American communities in the United States in the nineteenth century. As Noel Ignatiev explains in his 1995 How the Irish Became White, Irish immigrants and African-Americans were grouped together as part of America’s working and poverty classes during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as they competed against each other for employment and fought the political system and each other in order to gain citizenship and acceptance in the States. Edgeworth depicts the relationship between the Irish and Afro-Caribbean community in a similar way, even if it existed on smaller scale in Britain. Historically, these groups were seen as racial outsiders who threatened hegemonic white identity in America and Great Britain. While the popularity of such modern-day figures as Tiger Woods or Barack Obama show Western society’s willingness to embrace multiracial identity, Edgeworth’s attempts to integrate Ireland into Great Britain’s social, religious, and racial consciousness reveal nineteenth-century efforts and shortcomings in tackling issues of racial hybridity that existed two centuries ago and still survive today.

Being Irish in nineteenth-century Britain was an othered cultural and racial identity that destabilized the illusion of British whiteness. The negative stereotypes of poverty-stricken, uneducated, rebellious Irish Catholic outsiders conjured fears that an Irish presence would muddy the image of pure-blooded whiteness. Despite her gestures in embracing the singularity of Irish culture as part of Britain’s diverse society, Edgeworth exhibits her ambivalence toward hybridity by limiting Irish identity and implicitly policing British racial identity…

Read the entire dissertation here.

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Constructing Dialogue, Constructing Identites: Mixed Heritage Identity Construction in “Half and Half”

Posted in Dissertations, Identity Development/Psychology, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2012-07-25 20:15Z by Steven

Constructing Dialogue, Constructing Identites: Mixed Heritage Identity Construction in “Half and Half”

Georgetown University
55 pages

Anissa Jane Sorokin

A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of Georgetown University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Language and Communication

This paper examines how mixed heritage authors featured in the book Half and Half use constructed dialogue, also known as reported speech, to construct their identities as bi-ethnic, bi-racial, and bi-cultural individuals. Constructed dialogue, which is often representative of previous social interactions, functions frequently as a tool for identity construction in a literary form, strongly suggesting that mixed heritage identity is in many ways formed through talk. Through constructed dialogue, narrators can explain how what was said has contributed to who they feel they are, and often allows them to portray themselves as agents who take an active role in forming identities. Authors use constructed dialogue to convey stances that signal distance from a group, alignment with a group, or a sense of living a dual-culture identity. The analysis of constructed dialogue in Half and Half adds to an understanding of how mixed heritage narrators see themselves in relation to the world around them, and vividly highlights the role words may play in the constructions of their identities.

Table of Contents

    • 2.1 Defining Reported Speech
    • 2.2 Reported Speech as a Misnomer
    • 2.3 Layers of Voices in Constructed Dialogue
    • 2.4 Reported Speech and Identity Construction
    • 2.5 The Importance of Context
    • 2.6 What is Autobiography?
    • 2.7 Some Notes on Ethnicity, Race, and Mixed Heritage People
    • 3.1 What Kind of a Book is Half and Half?
    • 3.2 Data Collection and Analysis
    • 4.1 What Are You? Where Are You From?
    • 4.2 Questioning Authenticity
    • 4.3 Identifying as the Other: Early Experiences with Racial Name-Calling
    • 4.4 Constructing Mixed Heritage Identity Through Linguistic Features

Read the entire thesis here.

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New Book Explores Georgetown Inside and Out

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, History, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2011-10-03 21:26Z by Steven

New Book Explores Georgetown Inside and Out

Georgetown Alumni Online
Georgetown University

Historian R. Emmett Curran discusses his recently published book, a three-volume history of Georgetown that uncovers little known facts about the university.

True or false?

1. In Georgetown’s first decade of existence, nearly 20 percent of its students came from outside the United States.

2. Georgetown was not actually founded in 1789.

A History of Georgetown University: The Complete Three-Volume Set, 1789-1989, released this month, sheds new light on these and other little known facts about Georgetown, as well as offers a broad perspective on the university’s identity and place in American culture.

Here, author R. Emmett Curran, a historian and member of the Georgetown community for more than three decades, talks about the book’s evolution and surprising discoveries he made during its research. Copies of the three-volume set are available in the Georgetown University bookstore.

(The answer to both of the above questions is “true.”)…

…Q: What is your favorite story from Georgetown’s past that people might not have heard?

Curran: The manner by which Patrick Healy became president of Georgetown is a good story. In 1870 the Jesuits were struggling to come up with a suitable candidate for the presidency of Georgetown. After Rome rejected the first slate of candidates that the Jesuits in the United States sent them, Jesuit officials in the Maryland Province (then encompassing most of the eastern United States) sent a new slate that listed Patrick Healy as the preferred candidate.

“Clearly Healy is the best qualified,” the regional superior stated, “despite the difficulty that perhaps can be brought up about him.” That ambiguous reference concerned either Healy’s illegitimate background (as the son of parents [Irish planter and mixed-race slave] who, by Georgia law, could not marry) or his biracial identity.

Rome ended up choosing no one on the list and reappointed John Early, who had earlier held the office. When Early’s latest term came to an end in 1873, the regional superior proposed an interesting deal. He suggested to the superior general in Rome that John Bapst, then president of Boston College, be made president of Georgetown and Patrick Healy replace Bapst in Boston. That suggests that the “difficulty” had actually been Healy’s biracial background and so-called slave status. The regional superior was calculating that mixed race would not have the potential for problems in New England (where Patrick Healy’s two brothers had important positions among the clergy in the Archdiocese of Boston) that it might well pose in Washington.

Before Rome could respond, John Early died suddenly in May 1873. The regional superior immediately appointed Healy as acting rector, and the following day the directors of the university chose him as president. Rome, obviously unhappy about developments, took more than a year to confirm his appointment as rector.

Read the entire article here.

Note from Steven F. Riley: For more information on the Healy brothers, read James M. O’Toole’s book, Passing for White: Race, Religion, and the Healy Family, 1820–1920.

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