University of Virginia Names New Building After Former Slaves of University Professors

The board of visitors of the University of Virginia has announced the educational institution’s newest residence hall will be named to honor Isabella and William Gibbons. Both Isabella and William Gibbons were slaves who were owned by different professors at the University of Virginia prior to the Civil War.

William Gibbons was owned by Henry Howard, a professor of anatomy and surgery at the university. Gibbons later was “loaned” as a butler to professor William McGuffey, who taught philosophy. Professor McGuffey was married to the daughter of Professor Howard.

Williams Gibbons married Isabella in the early 1850s. A slave, Isabella worked as a cook in the household of physics professor Francis Smith.

After emancipation, William Gibbons was minister of the First Baptist Church in Charlottesville. He later was a divinity student at Howard University. Isabella Gibbons was a teacher at the Freedman’s School in Charlottesville.

The five-story Gibbons Hall will be completed this summer and will house about 200 students beginning this fall.

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