The Memorial for Enslaved Laborers Committee held a candlelit march across the Lawn to the steps of the Rotunda yesterday evening. The march commemorated the work enslaved individuals contributed to the construction and maintenance of the University.
Students convened in front of Old Cabell Hall where fourth-year College student Anna Funtelar, the Committee's chair, began the night with remarks concerning plans to construct a physical memorial.
"[The march] is not meant to replace a physical memorial," Funtelar said. "We will march every year until a memorial is constructed and maybe every year afterwards."
Students walked the length of the Lawn, stopping to look at the current slave memorial, a plaque in the sidewalk bricks to the left of the Rotunda.
"Every day students walk by the Rotunda and don't think about where it came from, but enslaved workers helped build and run the University," Graduate Arts & Sciences student Tara Tober said.
History Prof. Claudrena Harold spoke at the event about the University's historical race relations and culture.
"U.Va. has a rich, complex history," she said. "Tonight makes us, as a community, appreciate that diversity."
She also called the march a "movement to have a deeper understanding of history [that would] strengthen [the University's] status as a place where history is taken seriously."
Last year the Memorial for Enslaved Laborers Committee held a Design and Ideas competition to generate plans for the form of the physical memorial.
Third-year College student Hallie Clark, a finalist in the competition, designed her memorial as "a libation bowl with feet" but no legs to reflect the fact enslaved laborers remain anonymous, without identities. She emphasized the importance of continuing to commemorate the laborers beyond the construction of a memorial.
"We can't just stop at a memorial, it has to be an ongoing movement," Clark said.
Third-year college student Jared Brown, the incoming chair of the committee, said the organization understands the project is a long-term endeavor.
"Together let's make this goal a reality," he said.