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Starting School At The University That Enslaved Her Ancestors

Melisande Short-Colomb, 63, is a successor of slaves sole by a Jesuits to account Georgetown University. She’s enrolled as a beginner there and skeleton to vital in African-American studies.

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Marvin Joseph/Getty Images

Melisande Short-Colomb, 63, is a successor of slaves sole by a Jesuits to account Georgetown University. She’s enrolled as a beginner there and skeleton to vital in African-American studies.

Marvin Joseph/Getty Images

Mélisande Short-Colomb knew her family had been enslaved. But until recently, she didn’t know that they were enslaved, and after sold, by Georgetown University.

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She found out about that partial of her story when she got a summary from a genealogist for a Georgetown Memory Project, that is dedicated to anticipating a descendents of a 272 people sole by a university in 1838.

That, Short-Colomb says, “was an ‘Oh my God!’ moment.” And it led to a large life decision: She filled out an focus to Georgetown and got accepted. This fall, during age 63, she’s enrolled as a freshman.

“The towering doesn’t come to you,” she says. “You go to a mountain.”

She’s altered from her local Louisiana to a university’s Washington, D.C., campus, where she skeleton to vital in African-American studies.

Below are highlights from Short-Colomb’s speak with Mary Louise Kelly, of NPR’s Morning Edition:

On training that her ancestors were deferential by Georgetown:

I was sad, we was hurt, we was angry. Which is something that we am all of a time, for all of my life, as a black American child innate in 1954. What is function here should not be a surprise. This isn’t an ‘aha’ moment. This is history. And this is a partial of a American story that we don’t speak about. It’s a formidable review we exclude to have.

On how her enrollment during Georgetown affects a bequest of slavery:

I don’t consider my being there indeed starts to set things right. That’s unequivocally not what’s function here. And we don’t consider we should mistake that. we done an focus and was supposed as a competent particular to attend Georgetown University. we had to request like everybody else. we have tyro loans. we have a scholarship. we have a Pell Grant. we have work study. we have all of those things that go into being a student, and being a rather disadvantaged student.

On revelation her kids about her decision:

I have 4 adult children and dual grandchildren. My baby is 32. My oldest daughter is 38. we used to tell them all a time when they were flourishing up, “When we are adults you’re going to have to call one another to see where we am.” we am not a hovering, helicopter, have-a-grandchild-so-I-can-have-something-to-do-with-my-life mom. I’m a mom who’s gotta work until she dies. we stayed during home, we was a stay-at-home mom for 12 years. Then we went to culinary school. we worked for 22 years as a veteran culinarian, from line prepare to executive chef. That’s work that, physically, we can’t do any more. And I’m not a sit-at-a-desk arrange of person. And that was not my ability set. So each time we have indispensable to increase my possess ability set, a judicious thing to do was to go to school, and urge my ability set. So this is a standard thing for me to do.

On vital on a campus that her ancestors helped build:

I feel good about it. And we feel like we, who are descendants on campus now — there are 3 of us on campus — we feel like we are a dreams of a ancestors realized. We are prayers that are answered. We are a hundred eighty years in a future, of people who were terrified. On some day in 1838, when their lives were dramatically changed. And it’s taken that prolonged for us to speak about it.