The Beginning of a Dialogue

In 2013, the University of Virginia took a historic step under the leadership of President Teresa Sullivan with the formation of the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University. President Sullivan charged the commission with providing advice and recommendations on the University of Virginia’s response to its historical relationship with slavery and enslaved people. Of course, this is no simple task.

I am grateful to be serving as co-chair of the commission, and proud of what we have already accomplished in a brief few months. Part of the commission’s work will be to help uncover the story itself. While one might expect this information to be readily available, unfortunately the work and contributions of enslaved people often went unrecognized or unnamed in the course of documentation of the day-to-day operations of the University. Until quite recently, there has been a scarcity of scholarship and research devoted to revealing this history. I hope the commission will be an impetus for and support to some of this research, an important first step in grappling with this difficult part of U.Va.’s history.

January is a busy time for my office as we coordinate the annual Community Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. The celebration brings together a host of representatives from the University and surrounding community to consider Dr. King’s legacy and its relevance for the 21st century. The work of the commission ties in nicely with this year’s theme “Looking Back, Moving Forward,” reminding us that we must carefully examine our past in order to create a better future.

I invite you to stay tuned to this blog as we share our findings through monthly updates.

Marcus L. Martin, VP and Chief Officer for Diversity & Equity