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Slavery and Higher Education

Commission to focus on slaves at UVA

The role of slavery in the formation of some of America’s oldest and most respected universities is receiving increased scrutiny, both nationally and at UVA.

A recent book by historian Craig Steven Wilder, Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities, examines the ties between slavery and venerable institutions like Harvard, Yale, William and Mary and Princeton.

At the University, President Teresa A. Sullivan has established the Commission on Slavery and the University, charging the group with providing “advice and recommendations on the commemoration of the University of Virginia’s historical relationship with slavery and enslaved people.”

Led by Dr. Marcus Martin, a vice president and the University’s chief officer for diversity and equity; and Kirt Von Daacke (Col ’97), an associate professor of history, the commission will consider historically significant buildings and sites on Grounds related to slavery and propose educational projects about enslaved individuals who worked at UVA, as well as commemorate their work.

“Investigating the complex web of interactions among students, faculty, slaves, free African Americans and local residents in and around the University will ultimately enrich our collective knowledge about the first half-century of UVA’s development,” says Prof. Von Daacke.