In 2013, the University of Virginia established the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University. The research found the names of more than 1,000 slaves many of who were used to construct the earliest campus buildings. Once the university opened, slaves were used for manual labor on campus. Some faculty members owned slaves. The university estimates that as many of 5,000 slaves may have worked on campus. After the commission issued its report, some buildings on campus were renamed to honor former slaves and plans have been announced for a Memorial for Enslaved Laborers on campus.
In February of this year, the university announced that it would continue to examine its history by establishing the president’s Commission on the University in the Age of Segregation. The commission is being chartered for four years and will examine the university’s history during this period and make recommendations for appropriate action in recognition of this history.
The university has now selected 24 students, faculty, staff, and community members to serve on the commission. Kirt von Daacke, a professor of history and Andrea Douglas, an alumna and executive director of the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center in Charlottesville will serve as co-chairs. The commission will begin its work this fall.
Co-Chair Andrea Douglas said that “the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center’s role is to present the history of 20th-century Charlottesville from the perspective of African-American peoples. There is a causal relationship between the African-American and the University communities, not really existing one without the other. As a co-chair, I hope to help to make clear the moments of relationship in what at times has seemed as two distinct and disparate narratives.”
Dr. Douglas is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where she double majored in art history and biology. She holds an MBA from Binghamton University in New York and a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Virginia.