From October 18 through 21, 2017, the University of Virginia held an important symposium on grounds about the history of slavery at U.S. universities. Titled “Universities, Slavery, Public Memory, and the Built Landscape,” over five-hundred people attended this important symposium, with a number of Nau Center students and scholars presenting papers or moderating panels.
Associate Director Elizabeth Varon chaired the symposium’s plenary session on Thursday, October 19, which was titled “Slavery and Its Legacies at UVA.” A wide-ranging and timely discussion that was filmed by CSPAN, affiliated faculty member Ervin Jordan and former Center summer intern and current fourth-year UVA student Wes Gobar also took part in the panel.
Later that morning, Joshua Morrison, Brian Neumann, and Stephanie Lawton, three of the Center’s graduate students and veterans of the Jefferson’s University: Early life digital project, presented their work at a panel titled “For Friendship, For Freedom, For Union: The JUEL Project and UVA Students.” Moderated by affiliated faculty member Justene Hill, the panel demonstrated the value of the digital humanities for studying slavery at UVA. Neumann spoke about his work in identifying UVA Unionists, one of the Center’s ongoing digital initiatives. At a concurrent panel, affiliated faculty member Lisa Goff presented her work on the Daughters of Zion cemetery as part of the panel titled “Cemeteries, Slavery, and History.”
On Friday morning, October 20, Managing Director William Kurtz gave a talk titled “White and Black Virginians in Blue: The Untold Story of Union Soldiers from the University of Virginia and Albemarle County.” Kurtz highlighted the stories of a United States Colored Troops (USCT) soldier named Peter Churchwell and a white Richmond-born U.S. Army officer named Wray Wirt Davis to show that not all Virginians sided with the Confederacy. At a concurrent panel, affiliated faculty member Michael Caires moderated the “Slavery and Race at Northern Universities” panel. Later that afternoon, Kurtz moderated a panel about African American genealogy titled “Generations of Slavery: Tracing the Enslaved Across Time.”
The Nau Center would like to thank Assistant Dean Kirt von Daacke for inviting so many of our faculty and students to take part in this important event.