UA Little Rock professor emeritus works to preserve history of GU272 descendants

Aiyetoro in AY

A retired University of Arkansas at Little Rock professor’s passion for racial justice led her to work with descendants of enslaved Africans, who were sold to benefit Georgetown University 179 years ago.

Dr. Adjoa Aiyetoro, professor emeritus of law, has long worked to end racial inequality in the criminal justice system. In 2011, she served as the inaugural director of UA Little Rock’s Institute on Race and Ethnicity and developed the Racial Disparities in the Arkansas Criminal Justice System Research Project. She also served as a professor at the UA Little Rock Bowen School of Law.

Aiyetoro is now a member of the legal team that represents the Legacy of GU272 Alliance, the name given to descendants of the 272 enslaved men, women, and children sold by Jesuit priests to pay off Georgetown’s debts.

The team is working with the GU272 descendants to uncover the history and genealogy of their ancestors and discuss reparations and ways their forefathers should be honored.

Aiyetoro was asked to join the legal team by Mary Wagner, a descendant of Isaac Hawkins, the enslaved African whose name is listed first on the ship’s manifest documenting the 1838 Maryland sale and transport to Louisiana plantation owners.

Immediately intrigued, Aiyetoro chose to become an advocate for the descendants and work to help them communicate their thoughts, concerns, and desires to Georgetown officials.

“The most frustrating part of this process is knowing that many of the officials still don’t get it,” Aiyetoro said. “It seems as if they’re sometimes concerned with getting the issue behind them as opposed to working to find solutions.”

Along with helping the Legacy of the GU272 Alliance have its voice heard, Aiyetoro says it’s important to reach as many descendants as possible to bridge the historical disconnect.

“One of our major goals is to educate people and unite relatives who never knew about their biological connection to members of the GU272,” Aiyetoro said.

After discussions with Georgetown’s chief of staff concerning amends for the university’s role in selling slaves to pay off debt, the university agreed to host events in honor of the GU272.

The descendants and advocates looked forward to the event that took place Tuesday, April 18, in Georgetown’s Gaston Hall. Following a Liturgy of Remembrance, Contrition, and Hope ceremony, the university dedicated a campus building in recognition of Isaac Hawkins.

Aiyetoro is excited to see the work that she, her colleagues, and the Legacy of GU272 Alliance have done to bring about change, but she knows there is still a long way to go. She will continue to work with the descendants to reach a full resolution.

In retirement, Aiyetoro continues to seek racial justice, working with and helping others along the way.

For more information, contact Aiyetoro at aaaiyetoro@ualr.edu.

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