The University of Virginia recently unveiled a design for the proposed Memorial to Enslaved Laborers on the Charlottesville campus. Slaves, rented from local property owners, were used to construct many of the earliest campus buildings. Once the university opened, slaves were used for manual labor on campus. Some faculty members owned slaves.
The new memorial will include a circular stone wall in an open green area east of Brooks Hall. One edge of the “Freedom Ring” will be open, resembling a broken shackle. This opening will allow visitors inside the circular structure. A stone bench be built inside the circle. Names of slaves who worked at the University of Virginia will be inscribed on the inner wall of the stone structure. So far the university has discovered the names – sometimes only the first names – of nearly 1,000 slaves who worked on campus. The university believes that as many as 5,000 slaves may have labored on university grounds in the 1817-to-1865 period.
Teresa Sullivan, president of the University of Virginia, said that “our decision to create a memorial to enslaved workers is an expression of our shared commitment to tell the full story of the university’s past, as we look toward its future.”