Andrew Bordea, An interview with Henrietta Pike, May 4, 2023

Dublin Core

Title

Andrew Bordea, An interview with Henrietta Pike, May 4, 2023

Subject

African Americans--Genealogy
African-Americans--Interviews
Jesuits--United States--History.
Slavery--Maryland--History.

Description

Interview with Henrietta Pike, a descendant of Louisa Mahoney Mason, conducted on May 4, 2023 by Georgetown student Andrew Bordea (GU'26). A transcription of the interview is below.
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Creator

Andrew Bordea, Henrietta Pike

Publisher

Georgetown Slavery Archive

Date

2023-05-04

Contributor

Andrew Bordea, Henrietta Pike, Adam Rothman

Rights

Georgetown Slavery Archive

Relation

GSA69Louisa Mason and her children: the last people enslaved by the Maryland Jesuits

GSA83: Louisa Mason obituary, 1909

GSA340: Paul Rochford, "Louisa Mahoney Mason and her family" (2020)

Format

MP4

Language

English

Type

Video

Identifier

GSA456

Moving Image Item Type Metadata

Transcription

[Transcription prepared by Andrew Bordea.]

Andrew: Hello, I am here with Mrs. Henrietta Pike. Mrs. Pike is a descendant of Louisa
Mahoney Mason, who was sold in 1838, but managed to hide and continue to reside in
Maryland. Mrs. Pike grew up in DC and attended Catholic University where she graduated with
a degree in nursing. She has also gone on to earn an MBA from Howard University. She
continues to work as a nursing supervisor in a local community hospital today while being
involved in the GU272 Community and Georgetown's initiatives towards the GU272. As a
verified GU272 descendant, she has participated in Catholic University archeological digs at St.
Indigo’s and Newtown. She also serves as chairperson of the Southern Maryland Descendant
Project, which recently received funding from Georgetown's first round of grants towards
projects that benefit descendant communities. Mrs. Pike, I'd like to thank you so much for your
time. Thank you for joining me.

Henrietta: Thank you, Andrew. I'm happy to be here. Glad to hear.

Andrew: So, what I would like to start out with is, over our past two meetings, we've talked
about a lot of themes based on being a descendant. And one of these themes that I've noticed is
your Christianity, your faith. And this is also something that we've talked about a lot in my class,
Facing GU's history. And when we talked about Christianity, I saw that you were very devout,
but you also acknowledged that your relationship with it is a bit bittersweet. And I quote you on
saying “it is what it is,” due to their history with slavery. What do you have to say to a
descendant or even a non-descendant who may be disillusioned by the Jesuits and Christianity's
role in slavery?

Henrietta: Yes, it was bittersweet, learning about that. My brother and I, years ago before we
knew about being a verified descendant, we thought we were the last of our line once my mother
and father, my aunts and uncles passed away. Then we were contacted by this genealogist who
told us that we were descendants. I felt disillusioned because I had always been a faithful
Catholic. I went to Catholic school all my life. And it was just interesting that these priests had
owned enslaved people. Well, the more I researched, I found that, yes, they were enslaved by the
priests, but our history is documented, and that's pretty much rare, for it to be documented in so
many places. When I read about the Black Catholics in St. Mary's County, they're actually
talking about my ancestors. They passed it along, that I'm grateful for. I'm grateful that I can look
at documents like the Woodstock letters, and I can see where they mentioned my ancestors. I also
know that many of them sued for this freedom back in the late seventeen-hundreds. And these
are my relatives, these are my ancestors, and it just opened up a new world. -inaudible- I'm
thankful that they passed it along and now I'm connecting with other descendants because of the
way science is. Now we have DNA that connects and the descendant community is very talented
people. People are genealogists, scientists, dentists, everything. And it just opened up a new
world for me. Some of them are very faithful and are in theology, studying theology or pastors.
So there's a wide range there. And I'm grateful that I can connect with them and that I was able to
look at documents and say, “Oh, we have a paper trail.” And I can see how I connect with them.
And that's very rare for people to be able to do 'cause it gets lost. There's been fires here and
there, many times the enslaved people are not called by their name, but some of my relatives
were. And I'm able to look at it. So that's why I say it's bittersweet. So as we begun, it was just
me and my brother, but now a whole world has opened up. -inaudible- And that's what I would
like to see is that, I consider Georgetown holding a lot of that information. We have our oral
history. We have our oral Mahoney narrative that we can work on, but there are documents there
at Georgetown that we would like access to. And we have a talented group of people who need
access to those documents. I'm fairly new to this. It started during Covid as a matter of fact,
when I found out. So, I'm grateful that a lot of these documents were online. And I was able to
use the internet. If this was back in the seventies, I would’ve had to travel to St. Mary's County.
And they would go back and forth, back and forth. They would take Father McKenna down
there. And he was a major person in my mother's life 'cause he was at St. Peter Claver. And then
from there he went to St. Ignatius, St. Aloysius Church in Washington DC and they would go
back and forth. So they knew about the Jesuit enslavement. My mother was a very faithful
Catholic, and she passed it along to me. And I would see them travel back and forth. We had
relatives down there. I just knew bits and pieces, not a lot, because I was busy, going to grade
school, then from there going to college. So I was more into developing myself. But now I'm
ready to give back. I am ready to pass it, I’m in my early sixties now, to pass it along, pass along
what my ancestors would've wanted me to do. And my mother and my sister passed it along to
me and I'm gonna pass it along to my children because I really feel passionate this will benefit
everyone and help us unify the descendant community. I think that's how I truly feel about this
whole thing. It's pretty much encompassing.

Andrew: Absolutely. And I like how you talked about how you want to pass this down to your
children and you want them to do the same. You have this, while Georgetown and Catholic and
the Jesuit community have a responsibility, you feel as if your generation of descendants has a
responsibility too, to keep spreading this story. Do you have an idea for the younger generation,
the one that you are telling this story to, what is their responsibility in this?

Henrietta: I would like for them to embrace it. But with anything you have to present it to them
in a way that they can understand and may be involved and embrace it, and know what the
history is. And my job, my responsibility is trying to deliver it in a way that when they do want
to know that it will be there for them and they won't have to start over. So what I see is that I'm
learning from other descendants through Zoom meetings. I'm learning from other descendants
through presentations. I'm not an expert at that, but I can at least document all of this so that they
won't have to start back over when they're ready to hear it and internalize it. My two oldest are
really, really interested in this and I love it. And I'm trying to draw in their brother and their
sister. So I'm working with my immediate family first. And it is not only orally telling them, I
want them with their other cousins to be there at this point, I want them to be there. And the
more they're there, I know that they are loving people. I know they're smart. I know that they will
be on board with passing this along. So we're working with that. Like I say, young people, some
of them really embrace it easier. They have to struggle with it. It's not easy knowing that, the
Catholic priests, the history is that they owned our ancestors, they trafficked our ancestors, they
sold our ancestors, they caused us to be alone like this. But their responsibility is to know their
cousins. And they are embracing it. It's beautiful. We had a gathering in February for Black
History Month, and it was for Louisa Mahoney's descendants, and a lot of the other Mahoney
descendants came along. So it became a Mahoney thing. And it was beautiful. We paid honor to
our ancestors. I never saw so much love that we need to continue to do those kinds of things. It
was just something that we put together. It brought in the younger people. It's us trying to get this
message to them in a way they understand. And some of the young people read, one person read
the obituary, another person read the Mahoney narrative. And so I think their responsibility is to
show up. Then let's take it a little further. Let's have them participate. Remember I said, I don't
do public speaking, but I do want to encourage people to participate 'cause that's what I would
do. So, we drew them into the ceremony and they understood it, and they connected. I can pass it
along to them and then they can connect because I'm not gonna be here forever. And I want them
to know what their history is. And a gathering is something that they can understand. And yes,
we gave them the written word. That's the obituary, that's the narrative. So that's something that
they can handle. And I don't wanna overwhelm them. I don't want to push them off. And they
have embraced it. They have embraced it.

Andrew: So it seems like you're gonna be using your project, which recently just got approved
for a grant to not only connect with people of your generation, but younger people to involve
them in these activities so that you can foster this passing on of knowledge.

Henrietta: Yes, hope to do that. The gathering also has another feature to it in that we're trying
to focus on not only GU272, but on descendants who have Jesuit enslaved ancestors that were
separated, because there were multiple sales. And we have ancestors, we have descendants in
various locations. We have descendants in Louisiana, we have descendants in Missouri, we have
descendants in Louisiana due to these sales for those in southern Maryland right now. And
gathering is something that's very important at this time. (15:19)

Andrew: Absolutely. And not only do you use the gatherings to pass on your story, but the story
is passed on through the things in the Georgetown Archive as well as other archives and through
the actual genealogy. Me personally, I see the genes as telling a story in themselves. And so what
do you say about the theme of storytelling that you have perpetuated through this talk and our
other talks? How important is it?

Henrietta: Well, it's very important, the storytelling. Different branches of the family have
different lengths of storytelling. Mine is only bits and pieces only because of my age when I
heard it. And I have two parts and it's all built around hiding, hiding in the woods. And “they're
gonna take you to Louisiana, so you better hide in the woods.” And yes, her and her mother did
that, and I'm grateful for that. I always knew about hiding in the woods. It just was embedded in
me, hiding in the woods. And then there was the other story about taking the money and hiding it
in the woods. And with both of these stories saying “woods” and “hiding,” I'm thinking that it's
one story. However once I started reading the Woodstock letters and even reading the history of
St. Mary's County, putting it all together, finding out that one was talking about Harry Mahoney
and the War of 1812, and how he hid the money from the British so that the British could not get
the money from the Manor house at St. Indigo's, because that's where Harry was with Anna, his
wife. As his reward, his family would not be sold. And when I hear that story about him being
rewarded by such a promise, and that's what I knew from my narrative that was passed down, but
I didn't know of the sale of many of his children, many of his grandchildren down to Louisiana.
And that was about two decades later. Two decades, yeah, later it happened, and they sold them.
Now, we're part of the descendants that were left behind, Louisa Mahoney. Yes, she was sold and
later on she had to be brought back because they realized that she had stayed behind. So, she
stayed there at St. Indigo's. She was very faithful, a very faithful woman. And that's where I
found my faith, is in my mother, in my grandfather, and how they were faithful people was
passed along to me. And I did go to Catholic school for several years. However, after I became a
nurse, I found like a different calling and now I really struggle with that fact that the Jesuits
owned my family, owned my ancestors, or thought they owned them. But really, you cannot own
another person. And my ancestors were strong and they passed that along to me. So yes, I do
struggle with it. And I'm glad that we're in a time now that everything is on the internet or most
of the things are on the internet and we can find them. And I know that they're at Georgetown.
You have a very extensive digital collection there, but it could be much more.

Andrew: So would you say that Georgetown obviously has a lot of steps to go? You have said
multiple times that the archive is one of the biggest steps, giving more free access to it. Would
you say they have any other steps, other concerns that you have about how they're treating their
history?

Henrietta: I'm fairly new to this. I have to say, I am, and at this point, I'm starting with my
history first. And I'm not going to judge. I'll be the last one to do that, I can't. How are they
treating the history? It's appreciated that they showcase the items during Black History Month. I
thought that was I great. And letting us come up there and gather. I thought that was a little
different. And that helped us gather together. So the little things like that, that helps. But I'm
quite sure that they can do more. And it's up to us to really try to work through this in the
Georgetown community. And I commend them for that. And they're there. Unfortunately I can't
be there, but I am grateful that I'm given the opportunity to talk to you, like this. So this is my
contribution.

Andrew: And finally, aside from all the administrative aspects to it, what do I, as a student of
Georgetown University or someone at Catholic University or someone in DC who isn't a
descendant of an enslaved person, what responsibility do I have in all of this?

Henrietta: Well at the beginning of the year, I actually said I wanted to tell this story to as many
people as I could. As soon as I found out at the beginning of Covid, I said I want everybody to
know, everybody, that this happened, and this is a part of my history. And now you are doing
your part, listening to me tell my story. Hopefully people will look at this. But I just think it's
very important to tell the story, tell it accurately, tell it accurately whatever you do. Because it's a
horrible thing that happened. Horrible. I can't begin to imagine how it felt to be torn like that. But
I think we touched on something, when you said, what does my ancestors envision? They
envisioned all of the descendants getting together. They envisioned that. I can just imagine them
saying one day we will be together. And now it is time. It is time. We've been apart long enough
and now it's time to be together. So let's look at it that way. The more you tell this story, the more
people that we can reach. And maybe they'll start looking at the surnames, looking at whether
they come from St. Mary's County or doing DNA and find out that they connect with people in
Louisiana, Missouri, and I meant to say Kentucky earlier. So if this helps someone find out that
they have ancestors that were owned by the Jesuits and that lived on Jesuit plantations, if they
find out that it's all worth it, and you as a student should tell the story, it shouldn't be hidden.
They were one of the largest owners of enslaved people in Maryland, and all the other Catholic
people owned people like that. But, it's extensive. It really is. There's a lot of us out there. Some
people have no clue, but we're gonna find them. We're gonna find them. And it took a while.
Even though the story broke in 2016, it took until the winter of 20(inaudible). The students there
will continue on and keep the story alive. I know the descendants, they’re researching and they're
getting the news out. So, that's what I hope that the students at Georgetown would do is to keep
telling the story.

Andrew: That's beautiful. Absolutely. I would like to thank you so much for being here with me
and sharing your story. Do you have anything else you'd like to share?

Henrietta: Well, I think that the Georgetown community providing us with this grant, we really
appreciate it and it will do good. I think that the students were, you know, to get it this far that
you even awarded a grant. I think they were very brave, the alumni, the teachers, and all the
other descendants that fought for something of this nature. I think that's good. I do wanna thank
you for that. And thank you for having me, Andrew.

Andrew: Absolutely. It was great. It was amazing getting to know you and getting to know your
story. This was very informative and I'm so proud to be able to talk with you for my class and for
my learning experience. So thank you.

Henrietta: Yes. And thank you too.

Original Format

MP4

Duration

33:41

Files

Citation

Andrew Bordea, Henrietta Pike, “Andrew Bordea, An interview with Henrietta Pike, May 4, 2023,” Georgetown Slavery Archive, accessed July 14, 2024, https://slaveryarchive.georgetown.edu/items/show/541.

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