Over the University’s first 40 to 50 years, likely thousands of enslaved laborers worked on the developing Grounds, but they were not always identified. At this point, the names of 577 enslaved laborers have been sandblasted into the granite slabs that were quarried in Culpeper.
The monument design includes 4,000 lines on the stone walls, so when researchers found evidence of slave labor without individuals being named, they picked other details – either an occupation (such as “janitor” seen in the photo) or a kin relationship – in order to add another 311 notations.
The President’s Commission on Slavery and the University spearheaded the memorial project, first proposed by students about 10 years ago. Co-chair Kirt von Daacke, a UVA history professor, said students and others have helped him comb financial and other administrative records, such as notes from faculty meetings, as well as diaries and letters, to find out more about these essential contributors to the University’s founding.