University of Virginia dedicates enslaved workers memorial

April 10, 2021 GMT

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — A memorial to enslaved workers who built the University of Virginia was officially dedicated Saturday, a year after the COVID-19 pandemic canceled its official unveiling.

The Daily Progress reports that a prerecorded dedication ceremony aired Saturday for the University of Virginia’s Memorial to Enslaved Laborers, which was finished in 2020. The memorial commemorates more than 4,000 enslaved and free laborers who built and worked at the university in Charlottesville, Virginia.


University President Jim Ryan said the memorial is “an especially meaningful symbol of healing and connection” after a year marked by the pandemic as well as “unprecedented challenges to democracy and the unjust deaths of black citizens at the hands of law enforcement.”

“It is not only a bridge between generations, but also a bridge from the darkness of hidden injustices to the light that knowledge and recognition brings,” Ryan said.

Students led the initial push for a memorial more than a decade ago. Ishraga Eltahir, founding chair of the Memorial for Enslaved Laborers student committee, said they pushed for a truthful telling of a painful but critical part of the university’s history.

“Most importantly, we came together to acknowledge the very real lives of those honored women and men often erased from common narrative,” she said. “It took several generations of stakeholders, fighting to make the case for public recognition.”