University of Virginia Names a Campus Building in Honor of a Slave

The University of Virginia has announced that it has named a campus building in honor of Peyton Skipwith, a former slave who quarried stone for some of the early structures on the Charlottesville campus. Skipwith was owned by John Hartwell Cocke, one of the first members of the university’s board of visitors. The new building which houses administrative offices is thought to sit on the site of the original quarry.

In 1833, Cocke freed Skipwith, his wife, and their six children but with the condition that they move to Liberia in Africa. The special collections library at the University of Virginia contains more than 50 letters that the Skipwith family wrote to Cocke after they had settled in Liberia.

About 25 descendants of Peyton Skipwith attended the naming ceremony when it was held on campus recently. They are shown in the photograph below.

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  1. Peyton Skipwith’s owner was Cocke, not Cooke. Skipwith’s letters have been published, “A Slave’s Letters to His Master,” very interesting on the travails of settlement in Liberia. The Cocke estate, Breme, still stands in Fluvanna County. EE

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