UVA Professors Discuss Race in Charlottesville

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A panel of University of Virginia professors is helping people learn about Charlottesville’s history with race and heritage.

The experts say memory is critical to link the past with the present.

The Panel of the Humanties Conference examined the history of race in the city along with the ongoing controversy over its confederate history. The theme can best be summed in a quote from one of the presenters:  "What happened in the past doesn't change, but how we understand it does."

UVA Associate Professor John Mason spoke about the historical monuments with the Blue Ribbon Commission in Charlottesville.

“The commission has been working very hard having hard but honest conversations. What the recommendation will be I can’t say but I can definitely say that I’ll fight really hard to connect the past with the present,” said Mason.  “These statues are silent on the long decades between the end of the war and the time they were constructed in the 1920s.” 

Other speakers chimed in with their views on how race history is mishandled, and how even today, the burden of moving past racial issues is on the wrong party. 

“I think that it becomes very tiresome when you come to the bereaved group and set them to be the ones to fix it,” said Lisa Woolfork, an associate professor at UVA.

“White supremacy is the foundation on which this society was constructed up until 50 years ago,” said Mason. 

But the conversation moved from how Charlottesville got its problems to how the city and its allies can solve them. 

“Working to initiate a process of acknowledgement, reconciliation and repair with our own community at UVA and with the broader community we've embedded in for 200 years,” said Kirt von Daake, an associate professor and assistant dean at UVA.

The conference continues with daily panels, workshops, and discussions through Saturday when it will have its culmination panel at Monticello.

“One thing I can say is that we will recommend that young Charlottesvillians be taught their history,” said Mason.