Conference Explores Slavery’s Legacy at Virginia Universities

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Nau Hall at UVA, courtesy of Virginia.edu Nau Hall at UVA, courtesy of Virginia.edu

Students at the University of Virginia are sharing a part of the school's history that is often untold. This weekend a conference at UVA will focus on the legacy of slavery at the university.

Friday night, students kicked off the conference with a tour showcasing the history of African-Americans at the university. The tour focused on the sometimes-forgotten history of the role slaves played at UVA. Tour guides worked their way through UVA, showing the structures built by slaves. The guides say it's important to note that at one point the university was almost run like a plantation.

Both the tour and the conference focus on telling the full story of UVA's history.

"When you look at the grounds of the university I think visually you see only a piece of the story and it privileges a particular story and so it's really important to tell the fullest story possible,” said Phyllis Leffler, a member of the University and Community Action for Racial Equity (UCARE) committee.

For the opening lecture, Craig Wilder, a professor at MIT is discussing his new book "Ebony and Ivory - Race, Slavery and the Troubled History of American Universities."

There are a number of additional events planned throughout the weekend. See below for details.

University and Community Action for Racial Equity Press Release

Charlottesville, VA – November 6, 2013 – The 2013 Virginia Universities and Race Histories Conference will be held on November 8 and 9, 2013 in Nau Hall (1550 Jefferson Park Avenue) at the University of Virginia (UVa). The event is free and open to the public.

Inspired by the Virginia General Assembly’s 2007 statement of regret for the institution of slavery, this conference will explore the role of slavery, segregation and discrimination in shaping Virginia’s institutions of higher education and the communities in which they reside. The event is designed as an opportunity for reflection on slavery’s legacy and on ways to remedy its continuing effect on the present.

The event begins on Friday, November 8th with an optional guided tour entitled “History of African Americans at the University of Virginia.” The tour begins at 4:30pm at the UVa Rotunda steps. At 5:30pm, there will be a reception followed at 6pm by the Opening Session featuring Craig Steven Wilder in Nau Lecture Hall 101.

Craig Steven Wilder is professor of History and the Head of the History Faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Wilder’s expertise is in race, religion and culture in urban communities of the United States. His newly released book, Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of American Universities, re-examines the origins of the American academy. Mr. Wilder has also supported the Bard Prison Initiative in New York, which has given hundreds of incarcerated people the opportunity to acquire a college education.

Saturday, November 9th will feature a continental breakfast at 8:30am, lunch, and sessions exploring tradition & identity in higher education institutions; educational initiatives about race history; commemoration of history through exhibits and memorials; campus & community relationships; and access to education.

Closing out the day at 3:15pm in Nau Lecture Hall 101 will be “History: Live,” a dramatic presentation and dialogue led by The Conciliation Project of Richmond, Virginia. The mission of The Conciliation Project is to promote, through active and challenging dramatic work, an open and honest dialogue about racism in America in order to repair its damaging legacy. The day concludes by 5pm.

The conference is organized by University and Community Action For Racial Equity (UCARE) through the generous sponsorship of the Andrus Fund, the Corcoran Department of History, The Carter G. Woodson Institute, the University of Virginia I.D.E.A. Fund, and the Office of the Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity.

For more information, the full conference schedule, and to register, visit the conference website.