Can We Forget?: A Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at the University of Virginia

What had been rendered silent in official historical narratives about the University of Virginia's antebellum period from 1817 to 1865 was mention of the academical village’s dependency on an equal number of enslaved men, women and children. That history hid in plain sight for 155 years, as seen rendered in a cartouche from a famous 1827 map of Virginia showing an enslaved woman caring of the white child of a professor on the widows walk of Pavilion IX, designed by the university's founder Thomas Jefferson.

Lecture Description

The degradation, violence, and dehumanization of racialization threads through modernity—its subjectivities, social relations, politics, culture, capitalism, urbanism, architecture, and built environment, especially within institutions like universities that order all of these formations. Wilson will explore how the Memorial for Enslaved Labors at the University of Virginia engages the university’s hidden history of slavery. She shares how the memorial’s complicated design process and public dialogues wrestled with the legacy of anti-black racism in its remembrance of the pain of bondage and the dignity of this enslaved community. Her talk asks how commemoration can serve as a means of repair and care for those living in the slavery’s wake?


African American Public History and Memory

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