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Slavery and Memorialization at the University of Virginia    NEW!

From 1809 to 1819, when Thomas Jefferson was developing his vision for a new form of public higher education in Virginia, he and the other men he worked with to bring that idea to reality did so in the single largest slaveholding state in the United States. All of the men involved were large slaveholders. Through 1865, Virginia remained home to more enslaved people than any other state. Enslaved people made up thirty to forty percent of the state’s population continuously between 1790 and 1860. Likewise, Albemarle County, the site for what would become the University of Virginia, at the time construction on the University began was home to ten thousand enslaved people who constituted over half the county’s population. The state’s and UVA founders’ wealth, a product of human bondage, was vital to the birth of the school. Slavery, in every way imaginable, was central to the project of designing, funding, building, and maintaining the University of Virginia. 

The virtual tour can be viewed HERE.
The slavery commission’s culminating effort of acknowledgement and atonement is the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers. Situated within the UNESCO World Heritage Site space north and east of the Rotunda, the Memorial sits in the midst of what were originally farm fields tilled and managed by enslaved people producing foodstuffs for students and faculty. The memorial’s design and location are deeply informed by a process of community engagement with students, faculty, staff, and neighbors in Charlottesville and the surrounding counties. The location, within sight of the Rotunda and the UVA Corner, makes the memorial both highly visible and accessible. The memorial as well beautifully captures the tenor of those community conversations by creating a place for quiet reflection, learning, and gathering while powerfully acknowledging oppression and honoring the humanity and resistance of the enslaved. NOTE: Those enrolled in this course will be sent the link to Dr. von Daacke’s virtual tour of the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers, produced by Lifetime Learning, UVA’s Office of Engagement, and are encouraged to view the tour prior to the course. 

Kirt von Daacke is Assistant Dean of Arts & Sciences and Associate Professor of History at the University of Virginia, where he is co-chair of the UVA President’s Commission on Slavery and the University, and of the President’s Commission on the University in the Age of Segregation. He is the author of two books and is currently working on Jefferson’s University: The Early Life Project, a major digital humanities project that he co-founded with art history professor Maurie McInnis. The project will create a comprehensive digital archive of early University records, will track persons, places, and events over time in the Academical Village, and ultimately, include a 3-D recreation of central Grounds before the Civil War. Dr. von Daacke earned his BA from the University of Virginia, and his MA and PhD from The Johns Hopkins University.