Room 4: Enslavement
From the website of the Religious of the Sacred Heart: "Along with bishops, priests, the Jesuits and most of the families of their students, the communities of the Religious of the Sacred Heart, from the time of Philippine until the Civil War, owned, bought, and sold enslaved persons in the slave states of Missouri and Louisiana. Enslaved persons helped build the buildings, make the bricks, and sustain the foundations. They worked side by side with the sisters, taking care of the children, cooking, washing, and gardening. ...In the fall of 2016, the provincial team constituted a committee with a mandate to focus on the Society’s role in racism and slavery, The Committee on Slavery, Accountability, and Reconciliation. The provincial team wanted to uncover the truths of people’s stories, to honor their memories and heal relationships. The Committee understood that its work would be important in moving the conversation about slavery and racism forward to effect change and to be a positive contribution to the larger conversation around race and social justice in the world we live in today."
Backstory and Context
The first enslaved persons on the property may have been loaned to the Religious of the Sacred Heart by nearby Catholic families who had daughters in the school. The school property was surrounded by plantations owned by slaveholding families.
In 1823, Frank Hawkins was the first enslaved person bought by the Religious of the Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau. His prior slaveholder had brought Frank south from Maryland, separating him from his family. After several years in Grand Coteau, Frank learned that his wife and two children were now in the district. Mother Xavier Murphy was able to purchase Jenny and their children: Frank, Jr., and Ben, reuniting the family. Another reunion was accomplished in 1833 when Mother Murphy purchased Jenny’s brother, David Eaglin, and his wife, Julia. Upon their arrival at the convent, David and Julia were married in a church and their names often appear as baptismal godparents and marriage witnesses. They would work and live at the Convent until their deaths in the late 19th century.
The Committee on Slavery, Accountability and Reconciliation. Our History of Enslavement, Society of the Sacred Heart, United States - Canada. Accessed June 16th 2020. https://www.rscj.org/history-enslavement.