UVA Event Highlights History of Enslaved Laborers who Built University
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - University of Virginia President Jim Ryan spoke about the importance of honoring the enslaved people who built the university at an event on Thursday.
Ryan was part of the event called "Educated in Tyranny: Slavery at Thomas Jefferson's University" centered around a book that calls attention to the work enslaved people did to build UVA. The book is a series of ten chapters that focus on a particular framework for understanding the landscape of slavery.
The co-editors want to highlight that the culture and history of UVA was built on enslaved labor while perpetuating white supremacist ideas. They also point out that Jefferson was worried about the number of southerners going North for an education and hearing anti-slavery attitudes.
"We need to hold in tension the fact that UVA really does stand for a remarkable set of ideals that founded the new nation," said co-editor Louis P. Nelson. "Yet, that is undercut by the fact that it also was operational in a landscape of slavery that drew from the stolen labor of so many enslaved African-Americans."
President Ryan wants UVA to humanize the people who built the university. While speaking at the event, he highlighted specific stories of enslaved Africans like that of Zachariah and Moses who they think helped build the university.
"The past is always very present with us and I think in the United States today, we're grappling with the implications of being a nation that was supposedly founded on the ideals that all are created equal but failed to live up to that for many centuries," said co-editor Maurie McInnis.
Nelson said the events in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017 caused a push to get the content out.