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History of African-Americans at UVA
Transcript of History of African-Americans at UVA
Seen But Not Heard
During the time between 1865 and 1950, the role of African Americans at UVA did not change. More than ever, they were to be seen but not heard.
Katherine Foster was a local business women who cleaned clothes for UVA students and faculty. Using the money she had saved, Kitty foster purchased a plot of land within sigh of the end of the lawn in 1833. In 1833, seven Black families were listed as living in the UVA vicinity.
In short time, this community was thriving including with Katherine Foster listed as the head of a house with nine other people. Whites spitefully labeled the community “Canada” since despite being nearby, it was very different from the surrounding area. However, this term was then spun by residents to mean a area of freedom (since at that time slavery was illegal in Canada). After her death in 1863, Kitty Foster gave the land to her daughter Ann.
Venable Lane & the
Image by Tom Mooring
Civil War Years
History of African-Americans
Predominant UVA Climate
Late one night in 1861, student scaled the Rotunda to hang a confederate flag from the dome. This was the first recorded case of a public flying of a Confederate Flag in Virginia.
Mentality of Jefferson & University
1995 to 2005
Under Plessy vs. Ferguson
Plessy vs Ferguson
Many white students were threatened and outraged by the integration of the University...
Individuals claimed that Black students posed a threat the very fabric of the University of Virginia – her “tradition”, “honor”, and “standards”. Somehow integration would crumble these institutional features. This was code for what students really feared: the threatening of the loss of the existing hierarchy white male students had grown comfortable with.
The Cavalier Daily ran an editorial titled "Admissions of Negroes to the University cannot help but break down certain longstanding traditions and intangible standards here.”
This could be seen on daily basis in class and outside of class. Read the stories and accounts from Black students at the time to get a feel for how strong this resistance was.
Jefferson was entrenched in the institution of slavery for his entire life. He writes that his first memory was being carried on a pillow by a slave woman when he was just a few years old. Roughly 80 years later as he lies on his deathbed, Jefferson is trying to speak to his grandson, but his words are too feeble for the grandson to understand. So they call in Burwell Colbert, Jefferson’s enslaved butler who had been owned by Jefferson for his entire life. Without speaking a word, Burwell leans over and rearranges Jefferson’s pillows, an action that he had probably performed countless times. Burwell is at Jefferson’s bedside when he dies. Jefferson’s life begins and ends with a reliance on slavery.
Jefferson is not just "contradictory." He's too smart to live with that. Like many people, he's a rationalizer and the rationale he comes up with is important. Essentially, he can't fathom why freed slaves would not kill him (as the Americans did to the tyrant British), so Blacks and Whites could never live together. Due to this, he supported the Liberia movement.
Jefferson had just watched the American Revolution take place, and worried that freed slaves would take over. This concern comfroted him, and made him feel better for this contradiction. Some say that Jefferson was a "man of his time". You can agree or disagree with this as a steward of UVA's history.
The Maverick Engraving lays out Jefferson’s vision for his ideal University. It encapsulates his entire idea of an academical village. However, this picture lacks the messy details of creating a university. The Maverick Engraving leaves many questions unanswered. Who would create this place? How would it be run? Where people who were not students and professors stay? It would be enslaved laborers doing the construction and running of the early University. The planners of UVA did not even consider where all of these people were lived. As a result, they were relegated to shacks constructed in the gardens or the basements of pavilions.
Jobs and Tasks of African-Americans
The night before Lincoln was elected as president, the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society almost unanimously agreed that the South should secede if he won the election. Tensions were mounting in Congress during this time; in 1856, Preston Brooks, a Southern Senator, brutally beat Northerner Charles Sumner with his cane on the floor of the Senate. The beating was so severe the cane actually snapped, so organizations from around the South began to send new canes to Senator Brooks as a show of support for this barbaric display of Southern pride. The Jefferson Literary and Debating Society was among the groups that sent canes.
500 out of 600 students left to fight for the Confederacy
UVa's early students were not permitted to bring their slaves from home, which was unlike the policy at other Southern schools like William and Mary. However, this did not stop students from bringing their own slaves and housing them on the border of the University, where they could easily be reached if needed.
Tensions between students and professors ran high in the early years of the University. This is partially because the student body, coming from Southern plantations, was made up of young slaveholders, men who grew up with power over the lives of other humans. This led to a complete rebellion against any form of authority that tried to impose order on them.
Students were also fond of callathumping or midnight raids on the Lawn.
The majority of the enslaved laborers livving at UVA were owned by professors and housekeepers. However, the University itself did own some slaves, and students would bring slaves to Charlottesville.
The vast majority of the daily upkeep and maintenance was accomplished by enslaved laborers. This included tasks like cleaning student rooms, cooking, laundry, butchery, maintaining grounds, and running errands.
Enslaved laborers often occupied the basements of Lawn buildings. We believe taht most rooms that are at ground level or below have, at e point, been used as slave quarters.
Overview of Daily Tasks
The University simply could not have been built without the work of enslaved laborers. On a basic level, Thomas Jefferson and other University planners could not have afforded to construct the university if they had had to pay for labor costs.
Enslaved laborers performed much of the work to actually build the university. This took the form of both "skilled" and "unskilled" labor
Skilled labor- this include brick masons, column construction, and black smith work
Unskilled labor- this included leveling the terraces and carrying materials.
Isabella & William Gibbons
Lewis Commodore was purchased on July 18, 1832, for the price of $580
BY THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
. At UVA, Lewis Commodore rang the bell until 1845, and was also in charge of opening the library. When the university purchased Lewis Commodore in 1832, he was probably housed in the “room upon the ground floor of the Rotunda, near the Chemical Laboratory,” due to its proximity to the bell and the Library. The BOV viewed Lewis Commodore as a “faithful and valuable servant.” However, in 1846, the Board accused Lewis Commodore “of Drunkeness, which had well nigh ruined him.” He remained the property of the university until the end of 1851, when he was removed for allegedly neglecting the duty of attending to lecture rooms.
Oral history tells us that Henry Martin was born a slave at Monticello on the day Jefferson died, but became a freed man that worked at the University after emancipation. He rang the bell at UVa for 53 years (1856-1909), after Lewis Commodore was removed. He rang the bell in the Rotunda before the fire and in the Chapel after the fire. Martin says he rang the bell at 4 A.M. each morning before the Civil War, and at 4:30 and at 5a.m. after the war. (This early rising rule was an early source of tension between students and the administration.) He is mentioned further in the Seen but not Heard section of the Prezi.
Isabella and William were married slaves who worked at the University up until the Civil War. Different families usually owned slaves who were husband and wife, fortunately in their case, William and Isabella were sold to two different families that both lived in Lawn pavilions. “Their story shows that even in the midst of nearly universal mistreatment from students and professors alike, the strength of the human spirit could still prevail.” In Virginia, it was illegal to teach another man’s slave how to read, and teaching your own slave to read was socially unacceptable. However, William and Isabella were able to use discarded books and overheard lessons to teach themselves how to read. William also had help from the young daughter of the professor who owned him. After the war, this education allowed them to find success, with Isabella becoming a schoolteacher and William founding a church in Washington, D.C. Surprisingly, the Gibbons family would return to Charlottesville later in their lives, often bringing home-cooked food and game as gifts for the McGuffey family who once held them in slavery.
Great example of creating community.
As a gesture in commemoration, the University has named a dorm in the McCormick Residential Area after the Gibbons.
Thrimston Hern (b. 1799) was a second-generation enslaved skilled laborer at Monticello. Oral history tells us that Hern was one of the slaves that laid the cornerstone of the University in 1817. Three years after Jefferson’s death, Hern was bought by Arthur Brockenbrough for $600. Subsequently, Brockenbrough was paid for the stonework Hern completed at the Rotunda.
Anatomical Lewis”, so named by the University community because he cleaned the Anatomical Theater and dealt with the medical cadavers. He lived in a room in the wood yard located behind Pavilion VII and was “regarded by the children very much as an ogre.” Not only did Lewis endure a sordid job and poor living conditions, he was an outcast of the community. Whether he left by death or by sale is unknown. But by 1860, Lewis no longer appears in University records.
1830: 147 enslaved
1840: 145 enslaved
1850: 93 enslaved
1860: 105 enslaved
**enslaved laborers owned by professors living at UVA***
More of the Same
UVA was one of only two southern Universities to stay open during the Civil War (the other being VMI- the Virginia Military Institute). Because of this Blacks, both enslaved and free continued to work in many of the jobs they were already working. Examples: Henry Martin, cooks, washerwomen.
New Responsibilities at UVA
Many Blacks worked in the University's Hospital. They would have been taking care of men who were fighting (in part) to keep them enslaved.
Going to War
Some enslaved laborers were brought to battle fronts by their masters where they were responsible for various tasks including food preparation and equipment maintenance.
Increased Separation between Whites and Blacks
Increased Black Autonomy
For fear of a “slave rebellion”, whites in Charlottesville during the War Years created an environment of heightened scrutiny. Interracial interactions between Blacks and Whites severely limited, and Blacks were placed under an even larger veil of scrutiny. Town authorities went so far as to create a curfew prohibiting any slave from leaving his or her master’s property past 9 pm at night without written permission.
African-Americans capitalized on this increased Black-White separation to establish some autonomy, and to further build a Black community in Charlottesville. One example of this is the 1863 founding of the first Black Church in Charlottesville- the Charlottesville African Church. Today, that church is known as Mount Zion First Baptists Church.
Shifting Student Body
After Brown v Board
Alice Stuart Jackson
In 1896, the United States Supreme Court legalized racial segregation under the clause of "separate but equal". In practice, sepaarte institutions were almost never equal. UVA from 1896 onwards, used Plessy vs Ferguson as an excuse to prevent the integration of the University.
In 1935, Alice Jackson-Stuart applied for admission to UVA for a Master's in French. The BOV denied her for "good and sufficient reasons" (ie that she was Black and a woman, but being a public institution had to provide her with education. So the BOV proceeded to
pay for her
to attend Columbia University. UVA continued this policy of rejecting students based on race, and then paying their education elsewhere until 1950...
Swanson arrived in 1951 to a largely hostile university. He was denied on grounds housing, and was forced to live off-grounds. At that time, social life at UVA was centered around Fraternities and Sororities- none of who would admit him to their parties or organizations. When he appealed to the university, President Darden deemed this to be "private" and refused to intervene. During football games, students would pull out a Confederate flag and sing the Dixie song. Swanson was isolated in every sense of the world, and decided to leave later that year expressing a hope that his journey would enable other black students to gain admission with less difficulty.
In 1951, Walter Ridley exploited the same loophole to gain admissions to the Doctoral Education program. He graduated in 1953 with high honors and was a member of Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society at U.Va. Though Dr. Ridley He’s quoted saying, “If anyone gave any sign that I was not welcome, I was not conscious of it.” Whether this is truly reflective of his experience we do not know. However, he did not return to the University until the first Black Alumni Weekend in 1987; at which a UVa scholarship fund was named in his honor. Today the multi-million dollar Ridley Fund provides alumni funded scholarships for African-American students.
In 1950, Gregory Swanson applied to the UVA law school. Swanson was already a practicing lawyer, and wanted to earn a UVA degree in order to later teach law. Though the Law School Faculty unanimously voted to admit him, the BOV rejected him due to his race. However, in 1950 there were no other state Law Schools in the state of Virginia-there was not an equal institution. Using this logic, Swanson sued UVA under the argument that Plessy vs Ferguson could not apply because there was no separate institution. He won the court case, and his admission to UVA, and became the first African-American student to attend UVA.
In 1954, the United States Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to segregate schools by race.
Integrators of 1955
In 1955 Robert Bland, Theodore Thomas, and George Harris became the first African-American undergraduates at UVA. That same year saw eight reported lynchings in the United States, yet these three students bravely came to Virginia full knowing the risks that they were taking, not just to their social and academic standings, but also to their very lives. Bland, Thomas, and Harris largely focused on their courswork to avoid the social stigmatization of their peers. Due to the immense racism present on grounds, Thomas and Harris left. However, Robert Bland endured four years and became the first Black undergraduate to graduate from UVA. Oral history tells us that in trying times, Black students would tell themselves "Bobby stayed, Bobby stayed.The sacrifices of students like Mr. Bland made it possible for an African American community to develop at UVA. Bobby Bland is still alive today, and still comes back to UVA.
From 1955 until 1960, Black students were pigeon-holed into the Engineering School. It was not until the 1960-61 school year that Leroy (Roy) Willis desegregated the College of Arts and Sciences. Not stopping there, in the fall of 1961, Leroy Willis became the first Black student to live on the Lawn. Not only was this a prestigious honor, but it signified black students claiming spaces at the University. This continued to lay the foundation for the construction of a Black community at UVA.
There were 25 Black Students in 1960
Social Lives of Black Students 1955-early 70s
During this period, Black students social lives were not centered at UVA, they were centered in Charlottesville. This is where students could hang out, have fun, and find support. Rector Martin has said that "Charlottesville was our OAAA". Black students largely went to Charlottesville because it had a greater African-American population, and because much of the UVA student body was was still racist and intolerant. White students still sang the dixie song, and still excluded Black students from most social activities.
A good example of this exclusion and racism is James Trice's experience at Basketball games. Whenever he and his friends would go to games, they made sure to remember the self-imposed rule of never sitting next to a white person at the football or basketball games first. “Pick out a place where you can be by yourself and let the whites come and sit beside you. You don’t want to be hurt by sitting beside some whites and they get up and move. And that was a guiding principle for us,” said Trice. One day one of his black classmates forgot the rule and sat next to a white male student and his date. The white student quickly got up and moved his date to the other side of him and he sat right next to them. The action always struck Trice as being an ultimate example of racist behavior.
This is best summarized by Wesley Harris. He said "if you were to go to your class reunion, there would be someone you would embrace, there would be someone you would ask: how is your family? How are your children? ….If I were to come back to the class reunion of 1964 there’s no one I can embrace and certainly no one who would want to embrace me”
Linda Howard was one of the first women and first African-Americans to study at the UVA Law School. In reading her accounts, its clear she was smart, passionate, and would not let anything stop her.
James Trice Trice studied Chemical Engineering and was the first African American member of the Air Force ROTC at the University. The schoolwork work was hard and rigorous. Trice buckled down determinedly in spite of the isolation and alienation he felt. After graduation, he stayed away from UVA until 1985. At the first Black Alumni Weekend in 1987, Trice worked with John Merchant to establish the Ridley Scholarship, and served on its board of directors for years afterward. He also returned to UVA as the Halsey Distinguished Visiting Professor in Chemical Engineering. He retired in 1993, but still returns to UVA.
In his time at UVA, James Roebuck studied in the Graduate History department, and became the first Black president of UVA Student Council from 1969-1970. He worked often with President Shannon, and is quoted saying During that time, “I tried to keep him focused on the things that need to be addressed in the ways of meaningful change... of course we didn’t always agree. But he was always receptive in listening to the concerns I raised”. During this time, Roebuck was also instrumental in helping fellow Black students establish the Black Students for Freedom (what would eventually become the Black Student Alliance). Continuing on in the leadership tradition, James Roebuck has successfully served as a state representative for Pennsylvania State Legislature for nearly 20 years.
Read more: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ug03/omara-alwala/harrison/JamesR.html
David Temple entered the University in 1965, and within minutes of arriving faced racism upon meeting roommates mother. He continued to experience this hostility throughout his four years. In the classroom, Temple attested to the same feelings other black students during that time felt in their classroom setting, “isolated” and “ignored”. After being excluded from the Inter-fraternity Council, Temple along with friends re-founded Pi Lambda Phi, and thereby desegregated the Greek System at UVA. Since graduation, Temple has stayed actively involved with the University.
On the website below, you can read more about Temple and his experience here. He has some particularly clarifying quotes, and really helps to link the gap between 1955 and 1975. This is the site to check out!
Martin Luther King, Jr. at Old Cabel Hall
In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr., invited by Welsey Harris, came to speak at UVA. He spoke in the Old Cabel Hall auditorium to 900 students and one faculty member. Two things should strike you. The first, that there was only one factulty member and that it was primarily students were interested in hearing King's words. And second, that there were 900 students. In 1963, there were less than 100 Black students at UVA. That meant that the majority of the crowd was white students. Both White and Black students wanted to hear King speak, and wanted to apply his message to UVA.
Apparently, after the talk, Wesley Harris walked MLK to his car being the student liaison for the event. During the walk, a car backfired. Harris, thinking it was gunshot, threw himself to the ground on top of MLK. When they both got up, and realized nothing happened, Harris wondered why MLK was so calm. He replied that he knew it would happen sometime.
Through the 60s and 70s, President Hereford along with many other University faculty members and students belonged to the Farmington Country Club. This was a completely segregated country club discriminating against everyone from African-Americans to Jewish-Americans. In 1973, Student Council President Larry Sabato, a current politics professor and resident of Pavilion IV, led the charge against President Hereford and those who were members of this club, asking that they withdraw their memberships. He argued that one’s private life cannot be separated from one’s public dealings, and so they had no right to belong to a racist country club. In this case, protests from the student body worked, and Hereford left the country club. The voices of the student body, white and black, were able to bring about real change at the University thanks to the Jeffersonian ideal of student self-governance.
Creating a Student Community
Black Alumni Weekend
Black Students for Freedom
Black Voices Gospel Choir
National Pan-Helenic Council
Black Students for Freedom (1969) was founded by George Taylor, John C. Thomas, and Roland Lynch out of a need for political action to address unjust policies and programs and a need for a structured liaison between Black students at the University of Virginia and the broader Charlottesville and University community. It became the precursor to the Black Student Alliance. Its primary concern was to establish an organization that could realize and fulfill the needs of black students at the University,Overtime, the Black Student Alliance would use the organization as a vehicle for academic, social, and political change with a spirit of assertion and awareness of the surrounding issues at the University. Furthermore, BSA announced their cultural identity to the University community through endeavors such as Black Culture Week, various proposal outlining their grievances, and participation at University-wide events such as Orientation and Homecoming Weekend.
Black Voices, a gospel choral ensemble, was conceived and established by engineering student (Rev.) Reginald C. Dance. A Richmond native and newly married student, Reginald came to UVA in the fall of 1971 and entered UVA's engineering program. He desired not only to pursue his educational aspirations but also to grow socially in his new academic environment. By the late 70s, Black Voices was continuing to enjoy its popularity with the University community and surrounding areas. Attendance at scheduled performances were steadily increasing. Black Voices had become a choral ensemble of versatile style, with a repertoire consisting of spirituals, traditional hymns, and contemporary gospel. Black Voices acted as a cornerstone group in the development of a Black Community at UVA.
Starting in 1973 with the Qs (Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Incorporated), Black students at UVA began to charter sororities and fraternities. In a UVA that was very much socially segregated by race, Black fraternities and sororities provided Black students with a sense of community and camaraderie at UVA.
Luther Porter Jackson Center
Peer Advising Program
Carter G Woodson Institute
The Office of African-American Affairs
Since the 1950s, Black Students on grounds had been asking for a representative in the administration- someone to advocate for them and give them support in navigating UVA, a fundamentally white institution. In 1975, the Black Student Alliance called for an Office of African Americans Affairs (OAAA) to be operational by 1976. Unsatisfied with President Hereford and the University’s response, three hundred black students marched to the President’s Carr’s Hill residence to demand a functional minority affairs adviser. After this, President Hereford promised that the University would begin addressing Black concerns. The Office of African-American affairs was established in 1976 “temporarily” at number 4 Dawson’s row. (Dawson’s row was originally commissioned in 1835 by Martin Dawson to be used as “Negro quarters”. These buildings were later donated to the university, and were used to house confederate soldiers during the Civil War). OAAA officially opened on March 4, 1977 under the leadership of its first dean, Dr. William Harris (twin brother to Wesley Harris). Irrespective of difficult circumstances, the OAAA extended services to increased Black enrollment and graduation rates.
In October 1977, 250 persons attended the Luther P Jackson House’s official dedication as the Office of African-American Affairs and Black Culture Center. During the “Harris Era” of the 1970s and 80s, the LPJ house was repeatedly racially vandalized. Dean Harris often allowed these vandalizations to remain for several weeks as a graphic reminder of “the kind of shabby business that sometimes occurs at this university.”
In 1972, members of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated brought a new program to OAAA in which older Black upperclassman would mentor incoming students. Though it was expanded by Dolores Newton in 1983, it was “officially” named as the OAAA Peer Adviser Program in 1989 by Dean Sylvia Terry. Since its creation, the Peer Adviser Program has served as national model for Peer-to-Peer advising, and has been a key component of retention of African-American students at UVA. Dean Terry is quoted saying “all of us know that what happens during the first-year affects whether a student chooses to remain or stay at an institution. For many, the Peer Advisor Program helps them to stay.”
The Carter G Woodson Center for African-American and African studies was founded in 1981 as a result of the list of demands that students presented in 1971. The Woodson Institute's founding director, historian Armstead L. Robinson, began his tenure with a two-fold mandate: to enhance the research and teaching of African-American Studies in the schools and departments of the University of Virginia and to establish an African-American Studies Research Center which would make important contributions to scholarship and learning at this major southern university. Since its inception, the institute has promoted interdisciplinary and collaborative research and
interpretation of the African and African-American experience in a global context.
One of the most important steps in increasing the Black student population at UVA was the hiring of Elizabeth Johnson in 1969. Ms. Johnson was the University’s first full-time African-American admissions Officer. Throughout her ten-year, Ms. Johnson made it her priority to recruit and retain African-American students at a time when they made up less than one percent of the University's total undergraduate population.
In 1987, the OAAA joined the Council of Black Student Leaders to host the first Black Alumni Weekend. Over 220 alums returned, among them was Dr. Walter Ridley. This was the first time in thirty-four years that the University had officially invited him to return since his graduation in 1953. Since then, Black Alumni weekend has continued as a bi-annual event to promote and foster the Black community at UVA. Every two years, hundreds of Black alums come back. They say that the Black alum community at UVA can rival those at some HBCUs. It's certainly more vibrant that those at most public institutions. This past spring saw the 30th Black Alumni Weekend!
History of African-Americans at the University of Virginia
their lives and contributions
South Lawn Project
In 2007, the University installed a plaque to acknowledge the work of enslaved laborers at UVA. The plaque is located
ON THE GROUND
under the rotunda, and reads...
In honor of the several hundred women and men enslaved and free whos labor between 1817 and 1826 helped to realize Thomas Jefferson's design for the University of Virginia.
Memorial for Enslaved Laborers
President's Commission on Slavery and the University
In 2010, the University completed the "South Lawn Project". It is currently located at the Nau-Gibson area, and serves to remember the Venable Lane/Canada community started by Kitty Foster. The University installed an art instillation that during the day creates the outline of Kitty Foster's home. It also structured the layout of South Lawn to mimic an open Lawn, one that was not closed off by Old Cabel Hall.
In 2013, in part due to the attention generated by MEL and Colonnade Ball, President Sullivan created the Presidents Commission on Slavery and the University. The PCSU is tasked with increasing the amount of information we have, to change the way we think and talk about slavery, and to better memorialize the contributions and lives of enslaved laborers at UVA. Last year, the PCSU held a major symposium on Slavery at Southern Universities, and has a number of subcommittees addressing other issues. It also worked to get a new dorm named after Isabella and William Gibbons
In 2012, UVA students got together to create a student group called MEL- the Memorial for Enslaved Laborers Committee. Their goal was to create a suitable memorial, and to raise the funds and ideas to do so. Currently, students in MEL are still working on Memoralization, and well as serving as student members on the President's Commission on Slavery and the University.
Building the Community
Closing off of the Lawn
In 1895, the Rotunda and Anex burned down in a firey haze. As a result, the University hired Stanford White of the McKim, Mead, and White firm to rebuild the Rotunda and the lost classroom spaces. One of his proposed plans replaced the annex classroom space with buildings constructed on the open side of the lawn. Though this plan went again one of Thomas Jefferson's founding wishes for the university- that it always be open to the Blue Ridge mountains, the Board of Visitors selected the plan that closed off the lawn. Why you might ask? Because they no longer wanted to see the Venable lane community.
Today, the South Lawn Project attempts to re-open the lawn.
Jobs and Tasks at the University
Meanwhile In Charlottesville...
WE NEED MORE HERE- if you are curious, help us do the research :)
In the post-war years, the jobs and tasks assigned to African Americans at UVA did not change much. They still did much of the same work that they had before the war and after the war. For example, Kitty Foster's daughter Ann carried on much of her work at the University after Ms. Foster's death in 1880.
The large change was that they were no longer enslaved, and that most no longer lived at the University. It was not until the mid 1960s that African Americans came to work at UVA as administrative staff or faculty. Though the rest of the country was changing, the lack of change at the University was minimal. We would also challenge you to consider how in large part it is still African-Americans who perform the jobs and tasks that were given to enslaved laborers between 1819 and 1861.
As is true with much of the rest of the country, immediately after the war it was often in practice very difficult for freed Blacks to move or drastically change professions because they did not have access to the education and training needed to do so. However, this is not in any way the end of the story. Many African-Americans who had been educated or learned skilled trades were able to open their own businesses, or work in schools or other institutions. As Black communities thrived and grew, more jobs were created.
Henry Martin is a great example of someone whos life did not change much before and after the war. Henry Martin rang the bell for 53 years, from 1856 to 1909, after Lewis Commodore was removed. Coy Barefoot, author of
The Corner: A History of Student Life at the University of Virginia
"in a real sense, Henry Martin was the hub of the wheel for the University community and for Charlottesville". During his time at UVA, Henry Martin was known to UVA students as Uncle Martin. Though this may appear as a sign of respect, it was rather a way of keeping Henry Martin in his place. He was tolerated and frequently liked by students and faculty. This leads to part of the reason that we know more about him- that he was more known to the students due to his public job and his generally friendly attitude. However, some historians would argue that Martin played the role of the "good Black"-someone who acquiesced to the White power structure and did not fight against it. This, these historians would argue, is what allowed him to be remembered so fondly, one of the enslaved laborers at UVA of whom we know the most about, and one of reason he is highlighted by the administration.
Number of Black Students
Percentage of Black Students
***though this number does not include bi-racial students so might be a bit higher (around 7%)***
Number of Black Faculty
**getting this later this week**
Evidence of Racism on Grounds
Daisy (Lundy) Lovelace- 2003
In 2003, Daisy Lundy, a half Black-half Korean student, ran for Student Council President. At 2 am on February 26, Daisy Lundy was assaulted in Poe Alley, on the west side of the lawn. Ms. Lundy, and others, reported her attacker saying "no one wants a nigger for President". Daisy Lundy still ran, and won the election. In response to the attack, the Z society painted many of their white Zs black as a symbol of community support.
UVA Hates Blacks- 2014
In 2014, an anonymous person painted "UVA Hates Blacks" on the student health sign. It was quickly painted over the next morning by the University, but students had taken photos of the vandalism.
Evidence of Change
Its much easier to say what has not changed that to say what has changed, and more than that to say what has changed "positively". Enrollment has dropped, and the vibrant community experienced by students in the 80s has decreased in size. however, UVA has become more integrated throughout, and there is no longer just one Black community for Black students. In the past 20 years, there has also been an increased awareness and presence of different parts of the Black Diaspora- for example go an event thrown by the Organization of African Students or the Ethiopian Student Union. As with the rest of the country, there is a lot that has changed, but a lot that has also remained the same.
Has UVA become more inclusive and tolerant in the past 20 years? I can't answer that, but possibly think back to your experience this past year when you found out about Martese' arrest and the subsequent events (conversations, protests, Cavalier Daily article, ect)- What did you think? What did you do? Did you go to a rally? What was it like? That's the best way we can give you to answer that question- speak from your experience.
Decline of Black Students at UVA
Students Chanting at OAAA
Free African-Americans at UVA
Throughout the 1800s, many free African-Americans worked along side enslaved African-Americans. Unlike enslaved laborers, freed Blacks were able to take work home, and gain more autonomy- in fact often time they asserted that autonomy whenever possible. For example, many washerwomen took clothes home with them so they could work with little oversight, whilst also watching children.
Similar to the contribution of enslaved laborers, freed African-Americans similarly allowed the university to run on a daily basis. Because many of the slaves on grounds were owned by professors, much of the University specific work was performed by freed Blacks.