Skip to main content
MenuSearch & Directory

Slavery, History, Memory and Reconciliation Project

September 6, 2019

Dear Members of the SLU Community, 

As I promised in my letter of May 29, 2018, I am writing to update you regarding the ongoing work on the Slavery, History, Memory and Reconciliation (SHMR) Project. 

This month, the Jesuits’ USA Central and Southern (UCS) Province began contacting individuals believed to be descendants of people held in slavery by 19th century Jesuits. 

Researchers working on this project believe they have successfully traced several separate family lines to the present day. Provincial Ronald A. Mercier, S.J., is sending letters to a number of people believed to be descendants. 

In addition to including a summary of what has been discovered, Father Mercier is inviting descendants to contact the SHMR Project’s staff. The staff are now able to share inspiring stories of their ancestors’ courage and resilience that emerged through the exhaustive research process. 

This is an important moment in our history. 

Launched in 2016, SLU has worked closely with the UCS Province on the SHMR Project. 

In collaborating on this significant endeavor, the UCS Province and SLU established two shared goals as we seek a path to reconciliation: 1) To learn more about the lives of the people who were enslaved, and 2) To trace their family lines in the hope of connecting with descendants. 

You can learn more about the Project at, where you can read about the lives and families of two enslaved people who were owned by University, Henrietta Mills and Matilda Tyler. 

Before the end of the fall term, I will send an update on SLU’s next steps as we continue to uncover and honor the lives of Henrietta, Matilda and other enslaved people who contributed greatly to our University. 

If you have questions or thoughts to share, please reach out to Dr. Jonathan Smith, vice president for diversity and community engagement, at 


Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D.

Jonathan C. Smith, Ph.D.,
Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement