University commemorates slave history with new commission
Faculty, students, alumni, local residents to serve on memorial effort
University President Teresa Sullivan appointed a commission of faculty, students, alumni and local residents last week to explore and memorialize the history of slavery at the University.
Several groups advocated for the creation of the commission, including the Office of the Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity, the Office of the Architect, the University & Community Action for Racial Equity, and the Memorial for Enslaved Laborers Committee — all of which will be represented on the 27-person commission.
But it took a report from Meghan Faulkner, an assistant for programs and projects in the Office of Diversity and Equity, to really rekindle serious dialogue about memorializing enslaved laborers’ contributions to the University, commission co-chair Marcus Martin said. “Meghan’s work really helped us set the stage … to bring this issue to light,” he said.
Several memorials have already been placed around Grounds to commemorate the contribution of slaves at the University, including a slate recognizing the work of laborers installed next to the Rotunda in 2007.
“The slate was placed in honor of men and women … whose labor from 1817-1826, both free and enslaved, helped realize Thomas Jefferson’s [vision],” said Martin, also the vice president and chief officer for diversity and equity. “The goal [of this commission] is to establish a more adequate memorial to U.Va.’s enslaved workers. My office is building on the efforts of [other] groups to help raise awareness at the highest level of the University.”
The first meeting of the new commission will take place Oct. 3 in the Rotunda, where Sullivan will address the new members.