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Descendant of UVA enslaved laborers calling for scholarships to be extended to relatives

Updated: Feb. 8, 2021 at 6:11 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A descendant of University of Virginia’s enslaved laborers is calling on the school to offer scholarships to their relatives.

“This university flourished based on their blood, sweat, tears, labor, so I see that offering scholarships is a way to create an educational atonement because there’s nothing that can be done to compensate for slavery,” Myra Anderson said.

Anderson says her relatives helped build UVA in the 1800s. Her ancestor’s names are on the wall at UVA’s Memorial to Enslaved Laborers.

“One of my ancestor’s name was Thrimston Hern. That’s my sixth great uncle, and he was sold here from the estate of Thomas Jefferson in 1827 and he came to the university. He was a stonemason and he actually laid the stone foundation outside of the Rotunda. The other relatives on the wall came here at the second estate sale of Thomas Jefferson. which was in 1829, and understand that they were sold to various professors at the university,” she said.

Anderson’s request follows a recently passed bill in the House of Delegates that requires some public colleges in Virginia to offer scholarships to descendants of enslaved laborers.

HB 1980, titled the Enslaved Ancestors College Access Scholarship, recently passed in the House by a vote of 61-39. It would require Longwood University, UVA, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Military Institute, as well as the College of William & Mary to offer scholarships to descendants of enslaved laborers. The bill is now heading to the Senate.

“It shouldn’t take a state mandate to encourage you to do the right thing,” Anderson said.

The University of Virginia talked about creating scholarships for descendants in the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University in 2018, but Anderson says it’s time for action over symbolism.

“Words without action are obsolete, and I’m calling on the university to give us some concrete. First of all, to commit to these legacy scholarships. You’ve already have it in your blueprint in the commission, and then to announce time specific dates that they’re doing to make this happen,” Anderson said.

NBC29 reached out to UVA about HB 1980, a spokesperson says the university does not comment on pending legislation. However, the spokesperson said the University of Virginia is working to promote diversity and inclusion on-UVA Grounds, in the admissions process, and in its approach to financial aid and scholarships.

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