The memorial will bear the names of the formerly enslaved
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -
The University of Virginia was built on the backs of enslaved people.
For generations, that harsh history was often hidden or ignored.
But now, times at the university are changing and the uncomfortable truths are being told.
A memorial to enslaved laborers at UVA has been in the making for over 10 years, and now it’s finally becoming a reality.
Architects say the memorial marks a significant moment for the university.
“We have historically acknowledged all of the wonderful things about our history, but this is the first time where we're recognizing a darker moment in our past,” Alice Raucher, the architect of UVA, said.
The memorial will be made of granite walls and it’ll create a ring shape, which is symbolic of the broken shackles of slavery and represents the idea of completion.
“We hope first of all that people will learn about the history, which has not been very well publicized up to this point,” Mary Hughes, UVA’s landscape architect, said.
The memorial will be sculpted to have the eyes of Isabella Gibbons on the exterior, who was a former slave in the area and later became a teacher.
“This was actually a student-led effort from the beginning,” Hughes said. “I guess that effort began in 2007 when the university's board of visitors made a public apology for the institution of slavery.”
The memorial will also feature the names of formerly enslaved people at the university.
“The inside of the wall will have space for the approximately 5,000 names of the enslaved that we know worked here at the university from its inception through emancipation, and we will have the specific names of approximately 900 or so,” Raucher said.
The university had four different sites for the memorial, but feedback from the public suggested the site near the UVA Corner would work best.
The project will cost $7 million, and it’s slated to be completed in October of this year.