U.Va. officially dedicates memorial to enslaved laborers

The University officially dedicated the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers in a culmination of over a decade’s worth of community and student activism surrounding the memorial’s construction. Numerous faculty, alumni, students, community members and descendants of enslaved laborers spoke at the dedication, which was streamed virtually.

The ceremony was part of a number of virtual events intended to celebrate the legacies of enslaved laborers of U.Va. and their descendants. The dedication was originally supposed to take place more than a year ago but was postponed due to the pandemic. The Memorial — which was proposed more than a decade ago — was officially completed last spring.

Prior to the memorial’s construction, the only tribute to the free and enslaved communities at the University was a plaque installed in 2007 in the passage under the Rotunda’s south terrace that commemorated the “several hundred women and men, both free and enslaved” who built the University. Since its installation, the plaque has been criticized for its small size and failure to accurately represent the huge role free and enslaved laborers had in building and maintaining the University.

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