The University of Virginia will dedicate its newest residence hall, Gibbons House on Alderman Road, on Friday at 4 p.m. This is the first U.Va. building named in honor of two former slaves.
U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan and Rector George Keith Martin will speak, along with Dr. Marcus Martin and Kirt von Daacke, co-chairs of the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University.
William and Isabella Gibbons were husband and wife, enslaved by different U.Va. professors and living in different pavilions in the mid-19th century. Once emancipated, Isabella became a teacher at the Freedman’s School – now the Jefferson School – and William became a minister at Charlottesville’s oldest black church, First Baptist, and several years later was called to the Zion Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.
“One of the recommendations of the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University was to name one or more U.Va. buildings after enslaved persons who were connected to the life of the University,” Sullivan said. “This is part of a broad, ongoing effort to recognize the role of slavery in the University’s history and to educate the members of our community about the role of enslaved persons at U.Va. as we approach our bicentennial.”
The U.Va. Board of Visitors passed a resolution March 25 naming the University’s newest dormitory building after the couple. Construction of the five-story Gibbons House is scheduled for completion in time to house more than 200 first-year students this fall.Gibbons House continues the multi-phase project begun in 2006 to remove and replace the 1960s-era residence halls in the Alderman Road Area.
The new student housing offers modern amenities in a configuration designed to foster intimate, secure, close-knit communities, creating a strong sense of place and accommodating growing numbers of students. In addition to student rooms, study rooms and lounges, entry-level floors will be oriented to illuminate and animate gathering places housing a variety of program spaces for teaching, meeting and recreation. Gibbons House will also include office space to accommodate Housing and Resident Life staff.