Washington and Lee University, the highly rated liberal arts college in Lexington, Virginia, recently unveiled a historical marker on campus that recognizes the educational institution’s ties to slavery.
In 1826, a local landowner bequeathed 84 slaves to what was then Washington College. The slaves ranged in age from three months to over 80 years old. Most of the slaves were sold in 1836 but the college still owned three slaves as late as 1857. The new monument on campus lists the names, ages, and appraised value of each slave.
In ceremonies unveiling the new historical marker, Kenneth P. Ruscio, president of Washington and Lee University, stated that “somehow we have to try to come to terms with those parts of our past that we wish had never happened, those events that we have come to regret. We tell them so that we may learn from them.”
President Ruscio went to say that “we must ask ourselves how this could ever have happened. We wonder how reasonable people could have ever believed that it was acceptable to claim ownership of another human person. We wonder how the men who led this institution not only tolerated slavery but used these enslaved men and women to help maintain and fund a college. We must confront the knowledge that our institution has a history connected with the injustice of slavery.”
Dr. Ruscio, knowing that the university’s action would be criticized in some quarters, concluded that “a few will undoubtedly accuse us of being politically correct. They are wrong. This is not politically correct; it is historically correct.”