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Tue, 08.12.1794

Thomas F. Mulledy, Slave Owner, and Priest born

Thomas F. Mulledy

*Thomas F. Mulledy was born on this date in 1794.  He was a white-American Catholic priest, administrator, and slave owner.  

From Virginia, Mulledy entered the Society of Jesus and was educated for the priesthood in Rome before completing his education in the United States. He twice served as president of Georgetown College in Washington, D.C. At Georgetown, Mulledy undertook a significant building campaign, which resulted in Gervase Hall and Mulledy Hall (later renamed Isaac Hawkins Hall).  Mulledy's building program left Georgetown College and the Maryland Jesuits with considerable debt. Compounding the financial insecurity was that the Maryland Jesuits' plantations had been mismanaged and were not generating sufficient income to support the college.

To rectify the province's finances, Mulledy, as provincial, sold nearly all the slaves owned by the Jesuit Maryland Province to two planters in Louisiana. This plan had been authorized by the Jesuit Superior General in Rome, Jan Roothaan, in late 1838 on the condition that the slave families not be separated and sold to owners that would allow them to continue in their Catholic faith.  Mulledy executed the sale of 272 Black slaves to Jesse Batey and Henry Johnson on June 19, 1838.  Despite Roothaan's order, it soon became evident that families were separated.

This sale provoked an outcry among many of the province's Jesuits, who opposed slaveholding by the Jesuits and supported the manumission of the slaves.  This resulted in an outcry from his fellow Jesuits, and censure by the church authorities exiled him to Nice in the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia for several years. While provincial superior, Mulledy was also the vicar general for the Diocese of Boston.  During his exile, Mulledy wrote to Roothaan of his feelings of loneliness and sense of being forgotten.  Mulledy became an alcoholic and tried to break this habit with a year of abstinence.  With the intensity of the controversy waning, in the winter of 1841 and 1842, the province petitioned Roothaan to allow Mulledy to return to the United States.  

Roothaan was particularly persuaded by Bishop Eccleston's request for Mulledy's return. Granting the request, Roothaan sent Mulledy to the Diocese of Boston to keep him away from Maryland, where the scandal occurred. Thomas Mulledy died on July 20, 1860.   In 2015, a series of student protests at Georgetown over his management of the 1838 slave sale led to the renaming of Mulledy Hall. Meanwhile, Mulledy Hall at Holy Cross retained his name as Brooks–Mulledy Hall, adding the surname of a subsequent president who pursued racial integration on campus.  

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