The Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at the University of Virginia began with a student-led effort in 2010 and is a shining example of student self-governance. The memorial will acknowledge and honor the 4,000 or more individuals who built and maintained the University. In addition to clearing land, digging foundations, fetching water, chopping and stacking wood, cleaning, and completing daily chores for students and professors, they engaged in highly skilled labor—including cooking, molding and firing brick, complex carpentry work, roofing, transporting and carving quarried stone, blacksmithing, and making clothing, All these men, women, and children lived with dignity, resisted oppression, and aspired for freedom. For more than four decades, the entire University was a site of enslavement. Now, we’re confronting our past.
Kirt von Daacke
Assistant Dean of Arts & Sciences and Associate Professor of History
Kirt von Daacke’s research centers upon social constructions of race, community social hierarchies, and identity in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America. He is especially fascinated with studying the complex interplay of race and culture in the antebellum South. His first book, Freedom Has a Face: Race, Identity, and Community in Jefferson’s Albemarle, 1780-1865, came out with the University of Virginia Press in 2012. He is currently working on “Jefferson’s University: The Early Life Project,” a major digital humanities project that he co-founded with art history professor Maurie McInnis. The project will create a comprehensive digital archive of early University records, will track persons, places, and events over time in the Academical Village, and ultimately, include a 3-D recreation of central Grounds before the Civil War. Additionally, he’s very excited to be co-chairing the UVA President’s Commission on Slavery and the University. Those scholarly interests grew out of his experience as an undergraduate history major here at the University of Virginia and his time in graduate school at Johns Hopkins University, where so many of his professors challenged and inspired him as a thinker and scholar both inside and outside the classroom.