At 65, Descendant Of Georgetown Slaves Finds Second Act On Campus


Today’s story goes back 181 years to 1838. That’s when 272 men, women, and children were sold by an order of Jesuit priests and the proceeds of the sale was used to pay the debts of Georgetown College, now Georgetown University. The slaves had lived on plantations belonging to the Jesuits in Maryland. They were put on a boat and moved to their new owners in Louisiana.

Melisande Short-Columbe is a descendant of this group known as the GU-272. Two-and-a-half years ago she left her work as a chef in New Orleans and entered Georgetown University as a freshman. She was 63 years old.

She is now in her junior year at Georgetown. I visited her in Washington where she was house-sitting for one of her professors. She made me a cup of tea and we sat down for a candid discussion about her great, great, great grandparents Mary Ellen Queen and Abraham Mahoney and about becoming a full-time college student in her 60s.

6 thoughts on “At 65, Descendant Of Georgetown Slaves Finds Second Act On Campus

  1. Lolet M Boutte Reply

    I am a friend of Melisande and enjoyed this podcast immensely. The one thing she did not say and wouldn’t is that her head is filled with a giant sponge and it sucks up knowledge on any subject that she finds interest in taking on… those are many so she’s a font of useful information that makes me proud to know her and see her take these giants steps into a new and improved life.

  2. Ilene Van Gossen Reply

    I’m honored to call Melisande a friend. She’s a strong, fierce warrior and I’ve learned so much from her.

  3. Toi Rickett Elliott Reply

    I have the pleasure of knowing Melisande personally. She is the epitome of the word soulful and carries the spirit of her ancestors in all that the embarks on. Her quest for equality, awareness and knowledge keep the legacies alive. I am so honored to call her a friend and to share in her journey.

  4. Samela Dingus Reply

    I applied to college for my Master of Fine Arts Degree for my 50th birthday present to myself. It was 2005 when I entered school. Not a lot of people were returning to school at that time, and I can completely relate to much of Melisande’s story. I did have computer skills, which was helpful. I was, however, a black woman in a predominantly caucasian (Mormon) environment. That experience alone on both my part and the part of the individuals that I met and worked with was worth the three years of that degree. When I crossed that stage to get ‘hooded’ by the Dean of the College of the Performing Arts, I got a standing ovation. Brava, Melisande!

  5. Eva Benoit Ashford Reply

    Great job Melisande. I know your mom and dad are so proud of you. As you step forward if you look back quickly you can see all the ancestors step forward with you.

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