A "slave auction" at Georgetown, September 23, 1961

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A "slave auction" at Georgetown, September 23, 1961


Georgetown University--History


A mock "slave auction" was held by students at Georgetown University on Saturday, September 23, 1961, during John Carroll Weekend on the 100th anniversary of the Civil War. Part of festivities organized by the sophomore class to "impress the freshmen with their place in Georgetown's tradition," five hundred freshmen were "auctioned off to the young ladies of the neighboring girls' schools." The event was covered in the student newspaper, The Hoya, on September 28, 1961.


Digital Georgetown


Georgetown University




Adam Rothman; transcribed by Dami Kim.


Georgetown University Library






Newspaper article



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Thursday, September 28, 1961           THE HOYA     Page Three

Frosh Make College Debut

New Four-Day Program Emphasizes Old Traditions

by Tom Scheye and John Glavin

            In John Carroll Weekend, sophomores had something vitally new, and like anything new, it was controversial. It wasn’t orientation and it wasn’t hazing. It was a four-day program effected and staffed by sophomores and designed to impress the freshmen with their place in Georgetown’s tradition.

            Perhaps the key to the entire event lay in the speech of Dean Gargaro, the chairman. He made himself out to be William Gaston, first student of Georgetown, returned after 180 years, still proud of his Alma Mater. He pointed out that in the Quadrangle which was the scene of his speech, George Washington and Lafayette stood with John Carroll. But these men and their age were gone, he pointed out, and while Georgetown and its students could well take pride in such traditions, they had to realize that they were the present and future of the University, and in them the traditions would be continued.

            After Gargaro’s speech, the sophomores revisited their old rooms. They advised the new occupants on the particular problem of being a freshman in the light of their own recent experiences. Not only did they discuss the practical aspects of living on the Quadrangle, but teachers and courses were given a once-over.

            In his speech, Very Rev. Edward B. Bunn, S.J., President of the University, elaborated on the historical outline which had been sketched in Gargaro’s talk. Besides William Gaston, Father told the frosh about the signers of the Constitution who were graduates of Georgetown, the Civil War heroes on both sides of the line, and other graduates who had distinguished themselves in various fields. The freshmen, as part of Georgetown, should conduct themselves in accord with the ideas that its traditions and present position demand.

Copley Smoker

            After Father Bunn’s talk, the freshman proceeded to Copley Lounge to attend a smoker with their teachers. The faculty group was headed by Rev. Arthur Gordon, S.J., Dr. Frank A. Evans, and Col. James Davis. About 100 students mingled with the faculty in their first opportunity to discuss their academic prospects at Georgetown. This was the first time in the recent history of the school that freshmen were given a chance to meet their faculty socially.

            On Saturday evening, at 7:00, some 500 freshmen and the chairman of John Carroll Weekend were auctioned off to the young ladies of the neighboring girls’ schools. The Slave Auction was held this year in front of McDonough Gymnasium, under the supervision of Terry O’Rourke and Riley Suthoff, the co-chairmen of the evening. Six auctioneers facilitated the business of bargaining and earned for the sophomore class a net profit of $50.00. A dance was held afterwards for the crowd, which was estimated at about a thousand people. Music was furnished by the Upsetters, a band composed of day-hops from the sophomore class.

            On Sunday morning, a sophomore-freshman communion breakfast was held in New South Cafeteria. Masses were celebrated in both St. William’s and Dahlgren Chapels at 9:00 a.m. Attendance was voluntary, as it was for all of the events of the weekend. There were three speakers for the breakfast; Rev. E. Paul Betowski, S.J., Moderator of the Yearbook, Vincent Wolfington,

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president of the Yard, and Mark Pisano, president of the sophomore class.

            Father Betowski’s topic was the traditions of the past and present at Georgetown. He mentioned the distinctive uniform of the students adopted at the suggestion of Archbishop Carroll, a blue suit and red vest with yellow buttons, and of the custom of eating dinner once a week in tuxedos. He also noted that the current traditions, such as the reservation of the main steps of Healy Building to the seniors, and the prohibition of Old North Porch to the freshmen would be enforced this year.

            Vince Wolfington described the attitude necessary for the freshmen if they wished to be accepted as gentlemen of Georgetown. Mark Pisano elaborated on the theme which had been the sophomores’ inspiration for the weekend––the welcome acceptance of the freshmen as full-fledged members of the Georgetown family.

            The final event of the weekend was the songfest. The freshmen from all the halls were called upon to put on skits. While this evening was produced and received in a raucous manner, the only excesses were those of spirit.


[Page 3 left column image captions, top to bottom]

SOLD… Paul Kunkel auctions off freshmen at Saturday night’s slave auction.

FACES IN THE CROWD… Prospective slave buyers eye the merchandise.

COPLEYITES… Dr. Evans and company at student-faculty get-together in Copley Lounge.

[Page 3 right column image captions, top to bottom]

THE SYNDICATE… Freshman class council holds center of Gaston Hall stage in Sunday skit night.

SUNDAY MORNING… Father Betowski speaks to soph-frosh communion breakfast, as Vince Wolfington, President of the Yard, and Mark Pisano, Sophomore Class President, look on.

SUNDAY NIGHT… Frosh prepares to leave town early, with assistance from confreres.

Original Format

Newspaper article



Digital Georgetown, “A "slave auction" at Georgetown, September 23, 1961,” Georgetown Slavery Archive, accessed October 18, 2021, https://slaveryarchive.georgetown.edu/items/show/514.