Universities Researching and Atoning for Slavery.

The University of Virginia and the PCSU are finally getting some press coverage of our fine work. This was generated by Georgetown University’s recent report and President DeGoia’s efforts to reach out to descendants. Here is just a sampling of some of that coverage:
 We are thrilled with Georgetown University’s fine work in the past several months (when their working group formed, we invited them to participate in Universities Studying Slavery and PCSU Co-Chair Kirt von Daacke participated in a teach in at Georgetown in December 2015), but want to remind everyone of all that has been done here at UVA.
For instance, media attention in the past week has focused on Georgetown University’s decision to offer preferential admissions to descendants of the 272 enslaved people sold by the University in 1838. This represents a very important step in a long process of reconciliation!
UVA has not one, but two scholarship funds that pre-date the formation of the PCSU. They were put in place to promote diversity and encourage African Americans to attend UVA. They are:
• The Hoel-Perkins Scholarship (need-first criteria, but for students with a lineage that includes American slaves). This scholarship is administered as part of the Ridley Scholarship Family.
• The Ridley Scholarship Fund (http://aig.alumni.virginia.edu/ridley/). This multi-million dollar fund provides significant scholarships for African American students from in and out of state. There are currently 13 Ridley Scholars attending UVA.
Additionally, UVA (at PCSU’s behest) became only the second school to name a building after a person who had been enslaved at that institution when it named a new $35 million dollar dormitory after William and Isabella Gibbons in 2015. Another building will also soon be renamed after Peyton Skipwith, a man owned by Fluvanna County planter (and Jefferson Protegé/UVA founder) John Hartwell Cocke.
We also dedicated ourselves to changing the memorial and interpretive landscape at UVA so that we do proper justice to the process of acknowledging fully UVA’s historical involvement in slavery by making that story visible across grounds. This has included renovating and interpreting the African American cemetery on Grounds, installing intepretive signage outside Gibbons Hall (and, in the future, similar signage at the Piedmont plantation cemetery adjacent to Gooch-Dillard dormitories), working with the Rotunda Visitor’s Center design to ensure that slavery and the lives of the enslaved here are incorporated into the permanent historical exhibit there, creating a slavery walking tour map guiding visitors to key sites around Grounds, and moving forward with substantive memorial planning.
The commission created a team-taught multi-discipline class designed for first and second year University students, “Slavery and its Legacies,” that uses the University and the surrounding community as the case study for understanding the linkages between slavery, racism, the more recent history of Jim Crow/segregation, and even contemporary inequality. This class ran for the first time in spring 2016 and will run again in fall 2017.
The commission created the Cornerstone Summer Institute, a week-long summer program for high school students that also uses UVA as a case study for understanding slavery and its legacies. The camp ran in June with 22 students, 7 of whom received significant or comprehensive scholarships, and was a huge success. Batten School graduate student Alison Jawetz, who with Co-Chair Kirt von Daacke, designed and implemented the camp, will continue working on the camp this year. The camp, in addition to teaching the students about slavery at UVA, also connected them to the local community (thanks to Montpelier, Monticello, and the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center for hosting the camp. Thanks as well to the many community agencies and activists who took time to meet with the students!). We are applying to grant funding agencies with the aim of increasing the size of the camp and increasing the number of scholarships we can offer.
Last, our large commission has worked tirelessly to bring the larger Charlottesville/Albemarle community to the table as active participants in what we are doing. The PCSU has invested in listening and sharing with the hope that by doing so, we will build trust and inaugurate a process of reconciliation.
Kirt von Daacke