The official dedication ceremony for the University of Virginia’s Memorial to Enslaved Laborers will be streamed online at 11 a.m. Saturday. Several other events will take place Friday and Saturday related to the memorial and celebrating descendants of the enslaved people who built and maintained the University in its early years.
The pre-recorded dedication ceremony will feature a range of speakers, including alumni who first proposed the idea for the memorial, descendants of the enslaved workers, students giving a spoken word performance and UVA leaders and others who have worked on and supported this project.
Although the memorial was completed early in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic cancelled the plans for a spring dedication event that would bring people together in person.
Saturday’s virtual ceremony, free and open to the public, will honor the legacy of the estimated 4,000 enslaved people who built and maintained UVA between 1817 and 1865. Their names – often only a first name and in many cases, just an occupation such as “blacksmith” or a relationship, such as “Grandfather” – are etched into the memorial’s stone.
Later that evening, the a capella group Take 6 will perform a concert online at 7 p.m., accessible at the same links above. Afterward, a live Q&A session with Take 6 and friends will be held virtually at 8:30. Register for the free event here.
The Take 6 events are presented by the UVA IDEA Fund, a group of alumni and friends formed in 2010 to advise and support the University’s Division for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
On Friday, the Descendants of Enslaved Communities at UVA will hold the group’s first public events to launch the inaugural “Descendants Day.” At noon, there will be a moment of silence that people can observe wherever they are to honor the enslaved. The University Chapel bells will ring on Grounds and the water feature of the memorial will be turned on.
Friday evening, a virtual panel discussion on descendant communities in Virginia will be held via teleconference. It will feature Andrea Douglas, director of the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center and co-chair of UVA’s President’s Commission on the University in the Age of Segregation; Jody Allen, director of the Lemon Project at the College of William & Mary, which addresses that school’s history with slavery; and Michael Blakey, a William & Mary professor who serves as a scholarly adviser to the Montpelier Descendants Committee.
For information and to register for the free event, visit www.descendantsuva.org/events. You need not be a descendant to attend. There will be a brief session afterward for descendants only.