tv Lectures in History Slave Labor in 19th Century Virginia CSPAN September 8, 2022 12:45am-1:55am EDT
you know me. i'm professor april mastin we are very fortunate today to have a guest lecture president of stony brook university maury mcginnis. i'd like to tell you a little bit about her the title of her dr. mcginnis's lecture as you can see is the shadow of slavery in public life. this topic is relevant not only to our inquiry into how the arts can be researched as a window onto the past. but also how they affect the present or in the words of james baldwin how history does not merely refer to the past history is literally present in all we do. the research and for this lecture and the lecture itself was inspired by the students of the university of virginia who thought that the university wasn't adequately representing how the labor of enslaved people helped to create that institution. dr. mcginnis is a renowned
scholar and cultural cultural historian of the relationship between art and politics in the colonial and antebellum south particularly the politics of slavery. she's an award-winning author co-author and editor of six books including two books on this topic slaves waiting for sale abolitionist art and the american slave trade and educated in tyranny slavery at thomas jefferson's university. which for which she won? the she was awarded the chelsea eldridge book prize from the smithsonian american art museum? dr. mcginnis received her ba at the university of virginia, and she attended yale university where she earned a phd in art history. she is both an academic and a public scholar. she's a lecturer and advisor a curator of exhibitions at numerous art museums and historic sites. and of course the sixth
president of stony brook university, may i introduced to you president mcginnis? well, good morning, and thank you so much professor mastin for letting me have the opportunity to come and speak with your class today. i'm really thrilled to be here. i know that this semester you have been focused on what works of art architecture and objects can reveal about the past how it is that art can be an important historical document that often reveals information not found in written documents often these images and places allow us to connect to the past on an emotional level. on a human level in addition this can be frequently a way to engage a much broader audience in talking about historical issues that still have great
resonance today. as scholars and historians we find ourselves at a moment when our voices when our interventions are more needed than ever. looking at my own area of scholarship many of the contemporary topics in the headlines today sexual violence racialized police brutality mass incarceration racial injustice political polarization all have deep historical roots. conversations about a pathway forward often require that we first grapple with the past in order to understand its lingering legacies into the present. my years in the classroom have helped me understand the ways that my research on the 19th century american self has a deep resonance with issues of the present and over the years.
i have worked with historic sites and museums on projects that were tied to local conversations about racial division and injustice memory and symbolization and ultimately how to chart a path towards a more inclusive future. i would also add in my experience that such engagement has been among the most rewarding of my career. while writing books is a largely solitary pursuit the exhibitions and digital projects. i've been involved with have been enriched by the many ideas and the many different voices at the table. in working closely with community worker community members in working with those not connected with higher education. i have come to understand what is of greatest importance to them. and how our work can have a real impact on issues that matter to them and all of my scholarship is richer for their input.
so today i want to share with you two brought two projects that were intended to engage the pub public broadly by using local places and local issues that were simultaneously connected to national conversations. i have found that for many people the national and the abstract can be made more concrete emotional and tangible by connecting it to real spaces in one's local setting. to be more specific much of the united states has a history that is deeply entangled with the history of enslavement including right here on long island and throughout the north and yet in most towns and cities the physical remnants of that history have been removed a faced obliterated. yet the shadows persist. these histories are alive in the
memories of descendants. they often leave scars on the landscape and echoes that reverberate today. the works of bringing these histories forward the work of making visible that which has been obscured is often a vital step in the process of remembering reconciling and moving forward towards a more inclusive future. so the first project began in a rather standard scholarly way with a book published in 2011 by the university of chicago press. it was inspired by a series of paintings and images made by a british artist named air crow after his visit to america in the 1850s. the three images were all set in richmond, virginia. one of the largest centers of human trafficking in the 1850s.
what is particularly remarkable about these images is that these are some of the very few images made by an artist who had himself witnessed a slave auction. as a scholar interested in the lived experience. i wanted to know what these images could tell us about the american slave trade that went beyond what the documents could also reveal about that history. you are probably most familiar with the international slave trade. that is the trade that forcibly captured about 11 million africans and sold them into slavery in the new world about 500,000 of whom ended up in what eventually became the united states. but the american slave trade is what happened after the us ended its participation in the international slave trade in 1808.
after that a robust trade emerged that sold people from the states of the upper south especially, maryland and virginia to the states of the lower south think louisiana, mississippi, alabama. in response to the rising demand for labor as the lands of the american southwest opened up to cotton cultivation. in this trade nearly two-thirds of a million people were sold away from their families relocated hundreds of miles away. never to see their family members again. it is the story of how the americans south was settled. places an objects have a way of connecting us viscerally and emotionally with the past. and so i thought that these images would prove an important window into that history. and i thought that with enough
research. i might be able to figure out exactly where the painter visited. what he had seen? and i was hoping i could use those spaces to educate virginians about the horrors that had occurred there. i especially hope that i might be able to trace something of the lives of the people he represented. to understand the images. i wanted to understand what the painter had seen. and that research was like trying to piece together a complicated puzzle with many pieces missing. directory listings newspaper listings property by property deed research the occasional list of people sold by traders helped me ultimately to map the part of the city where this trade took place. helped me figure out where the jailers and the auctioneers had
their places of business in 1853 when the painter was there and then i wanted to connect that to the contemporary landscape. and with that reconstructed landscape in my head and using the painters description of his visit to the city i could then figure out where crow walked. and therefore what he would have seen and through that cultural mapping compare richmond's experience with other cities. looking for the lingering shadows of slavery and today's richmond proved much more elusive. as the landscape had been forever altered by the addition first of the railroad and second of the interstate. as was so often the case when interstates were added in the 1950s little heed was given to the land that either belonged to or held the history of african
americans that is certainly true enrichment as i-95 tore through the area called shacobottom, which is where the traitors had their businesses. as i was starting my research the city had also begun its exploration of a place known to have served as a slave jail. owned by a man named robert lumpkin who is a human trafficker for more than two decades in richmond and where that yellow is on the map. the bank above it is i-95. and this is what they believed was the footprint of robert lumpkins jail. so they began to dig hoping to find something of this. area that we actually had period evidence for so archaeologist matt laird and his team dug down through 15 feet of infill
running into the remnants of the creek that used to flow there and you can see the constant flooding they had to contend with what they found were the footings of the original buildings this unbelievable courtyard that was around the buildings and where the enslaved that were held in this jail for days or weeks or months before they were sold awaited their fate. it allowed us ultimately to three dimensionally reconstruct what the lumpkin must have been like the only memorial in the city of richmond in 2011. was this monument? called the reconciliation statue. which was intended to connect the city of richmond with liverpool and benin. but that revealed the confusion the city had about what slave
trade had taken place there. because when richmonders heard slave trade, they thought the international slave trade and yet richmond was not even really a town in 1808 when that slave trade ended. the story of human trafficking enrichment is about the city's role in the american slave trade and a statue connecting richmond to new orleans and natchez mississippi would be more precise. early on in the research from my book. i also got involved in conversations about the role. of the slave trade in the city's history and the power of place in bearing witness to that story. other than this statue and the archaeological excavation that was soon re-buried the city of richmond had a very different memorial landscape. in fact richmond the capital of
the confederacy had a public landscape dominated by the very substantial presence of the lost cause a presence that included multiple civil war monuments and it was kept alive by the lived presence of those who claimed heritage. it quickly became evident to me that i had an opportunity and i would say even an obligation to find a way for this story to become accessible and known to richmonders. i was under no. illusion that they would read my book so i found a partner and began working on an exhibition. as my book had centered on exploring both the material experience of those forced into the trade and the way in which the visual was harnessed to further the abolitionist cause i believed that an exhibition could help the city of richmond
acknowledge confront and understand the city's role in human trafficking in the 19th century. my partner was the library of virginia the state archives and a place willing to take on an exhibition that was expected to be quite controversial given the reluctance of those in power to talk honestly about the cities slave trading past. so as part of our planning the library organized focus groups, and we invited educational leaders church leaders members of the city council and civic activists and over multiple meetings asked for their input on our plans. richmond was in the middle of the sesquicentennial remembrance of the civil war. and in some cities like, charleston, south carolina. the anniversary of the civil war was initially greeted as it had been 50 years earlier at the time of the centennial. with visions of hoop skirts
moonlight and magnolias and the ghost of scarlett o'hara and the power of gone with the wind was not far from these celebrations. we wanted the images. painted by aircrow to play an important role in the exhibit and to structure our community conversations, we showed them crows painting. and other artifacts and documents that we expected to include in the exhibition. what we quickly learned was that the images and the intended meanings from the 19th century did not convey to modern audiences. we also learned quickly how little trust the african-american community had that a state agency. would be willing to tell such an important story with honesty. it was a story they had known
for decades on an emotional level the ripping apart of families. but it had so long been obliterated from the landscape and from history books and denied by those in power that they were suspicious how we would handle it. they were our partners and they guided us in finding ways to tell this raw and powerful story and they remained our important partners as the project progressed. this was a project that we worked on for three years. it was in part-time to be part of the city's reckoning with the hundred and fiftieth anniversary american civil war. time to coincide with the end of the war. and before our exhibition opened the city became laser focused on the neighborhood of richmond slave trade because the then mayor proposed a significant
development for the land in chaco bottom. the proposal included plans for a museum over the lumpkin site but one that would be paid for in part by money from commercial development. that would include a baseball stadium for the minor league richmond team hotels and other commercial and residential structures. newspaper articles and community open forums tried to educate richmonders on this history as history that had been wiped from the landscape. and i was one of many who contributed by. trying to help make sure richmonders understood the history. that was at stake here. very quickly opposition arose opposed to putting a baseball park. so close to the site of human suffering. and when the exhibition opened this was still a lively debated topic.
the exhibition itself was viewed by tens of thousands more that had ever been to an exhibit at the library before. many many more than bought my book and afterwards a traveling version was made available to the libraries throughout the state. the library of virginia had voluminous records related to the slave trade documents and artifacts that amply demonstrate the scale of the trade to those who might still have tried to deny. its scale in richmond the city that was by the 1840s and 50s the largest slave trading city in the upper south and which was slave trading was the largest economic industry in the city in the period. and we wanted to connect. the visitors of the exhibit
through more than just paper. and crows images and his visit to the city where the best way to do that. so just as images in the 19th century had been powerful in the fight against slavery. so too were images and artifacts in telling that history today. we wanted to help modern audiences connect with those images. and so i worked with a group of scholars at the university of richmond and the digital scholars lab. to try to reconstruct richmond in 1853. because by now this area of richmond modern richmond is offices and skyscrapers and the interstate a very modern landscape so we knew what we used about real buildings and this is a photograph of one of the longest used auction houses where people were sold. and then to use that as a basis
to recreate richmond in 1853 the richmond that air crow visited. so we created multiple interactive exhibits many with voice recordings reading from period documents others with interactives explaining details from images and in one short video that i want to show you. it was our sort of culmination if you were going to watch three minutes at the exhibit this hopefully helped pull it all together and it's drawn from what the artist wrote about his what he had seen in richmond he when he was there. so let me play this. on a cold, march day in 1853 air crow arrived at the railroad depot on broad street he made his way past the virginia state capitol to his lodgings at the american hotel on main street. the third of march 1853 is a date.
well imprinted on my memory. i was sitting at an early breakfast by myself reading the able to conducted local newspaper. it was not however the leaders or politics which attracted my eye so much as the advertisement columns containing the announcements of slave sales some of which were to take place that morning in wall street close at hand at 11 o'clock. arming myself with a pencil and a slip or two of paper and putting these carefully into my pocket. i sallied forth into the high street and walked some hundreds of yards down its steep declivity. i turned up one of the narrow stallions of the many of butting upon the high street. the sales take place here with indoors upon the ground floor of the houses four in number. outside the doors are hung small garish flags of blood red. upon which are pinned small manuscript descriptions of the -- to be successively disposed of once on wall street crow went
into the room of the first auction taking place. probably in the room of pulliam and davis. the auction was already underway when he arrived. on the platform the dealer pointed to a young negris of some 15 or 16 years of age standing at his side. holding a petticoat on the ground immediately beneath to the black help or assistant who looked around at the bidders as the sun kept swelling from six seven to eight hundred dollars. i saw one after the other the inmates of this first auction room purchased at various prices. crow then moved with the crowd to the second auction room and then to the third room. either that of rh dickinson and brothers or nbncb hill on the corner of franklin and wall streets. where he sketch the scene of a group of people seated on benches before the start of the sale. i do not hesitate to pronounce the spectacle which here
presented itself to be one of the most touching which could well be revealed to the sight. i found in it a perfect composition. in a hardly justifiable fit of enthusiasm when time and place are considered i took out pencil and paper. his sketching aroused significant scrutiny. and he was eventually chased out of the auction room. as they were all convinced he was an abolitionist. crow quickly wandered back down wall street and blended into the crowd on main street. what he missed seeing were the multiple jail complex is near the auction rooms. where people were held before sale? the most notorious of these lumpkins jail was about a block north on wall street. as crow continued to explore the city. he once again encountered the slave trade perhaps unexpectedly. at the railroad terminal on 8th street here people who had recently been purchased on wall street. were being forced into railroad cars and wagons for a long journey further southward.
we sold the usual exodus of -- slaves marched under the escort of their new owners across the town to the railway station. where they took places and went south in the years since the exhibition was up in 2015. the mayor's proposal for the baseball stadium was defeated. conversations have continued since then the city and the now mayor a different mayor have recently proposed a new development plan for the area one that has listened to the community. this proposal centers around the memorialization of important african-american historical sites. a museum and cultural revitalization of this part of the city that is more inclusive. it is not clear whether this proposal will ultimately move forward, but it is clear that
the conversations are more respectful of the history that took place in this part of richmond. and the city has moved forward in other deeply symbolic and significant ways. throughout the city the monuments that marked the exertion of white power and jim crow segregation those monuments to the generals of the civil war have been removed including the first and largest that to robert e lee that since the murder of george floyd had become a site of protest and the rewriting of public memory in that city. the second project was focused on the university of virginia. i was on the faculty at uva for nearly 20 years and there i taught courses and art history in american studies and with time my scholarship and my teaching merged as i focused my
work on the history of the university itself. i had attended uva as an undergraduate and when i was a student there in the 1980s, i was completely unaware of the institutions history of slavery. it was simply not discussed. not mentioned not memorialized not to be seen. in many and it was followed by many more years of segregation. and they stated this just a matter of factly. the history's website would have declared that uva integrated in 1968. i'll add parenthetically that this public university only began admitting women in 1970. i learned from my african american students how acutely they felt the weight of that history. how they found the constant
references to jefferson oppressive. how they did not feel welcome and included in the university's historic spaces spaces that had been built and maintained by enslaved labor and later segregated for that additional hundred years. how they were often treated as unwanted by some of the schools white students. it was clear to me that even though the official public history of the university never mentioned slavery and even though there was not a single public acknowledgment on the university's landscape the presence of slavery cast a long shadow over the present state of university life. working with two other faculty members one from history and the other from computer science. we set out to lead a change in the institutions public memory. by working to uncover and
revealed the multi-faceted contributions that african-americans had made to the institution and to highlight the long shadows that slavery still cast on the university's landscape. we believed that such work was a necessary step in contemporary conversations about race relations at uva. first a little background about the university of virginia. it was founded by thomas jefferson. he referred to it as the hobby of his old age. he selected the first faculty decided which books were needed in the library designated the liberal arts curriculum and designed all of the buildings. importantly, he did not construct the university as it is often said in fact dozens of enslaved laborers were key to all of the work that was done from terracing the land to digging the clay for bricks from laying the bricks to plastering
and painting the walls. we saw this as a project that would involve students and on the screen, you'll see some of the names of the students who have been part of this journey. and that by involving students in the primary research and the writing of the university's history we could begin to change the collective memory of the institution in powerful ways. students began by pouring through the university's archives and learning first to read cursive. they learned how to transcribe documents and tagged them with very sophisticated xml tags so that we could do the kinds of complex searching. that would allow us to tie threads together. they asked questions they made connections. they shaped the scholarship.
they wrote essays that expanded our understanding. and all of this work weaves into a larger story that's now been ongoing for a decade and that's enabled me and some of my colleagues to also publish a book on the history of enslavement at uva which came out in 2019. not long after we had begun our work in 2012. a year later the president of the university teresa sullivan established the president's commission on slavery in the university. in part a response to the discovery of 67 grave shafts that are now understood to be part of the burial location for enslaved people during the university's early decades. working closely with the local african-american community the university restored this cemetery as a location and a
site for reflection and remembrance. jefferson's design for the university has long been seen as a model for campuses throughout america. an open quad that is surrounded by teaching space and at the university also living quarters for both students and faculty. it included the round building at the top, which is called the rotunda which was the library and held classrooms. the larger buildings running down the inside parallel rows. there are called pavilions and those held classrooms and a residence for faculty. the large two-story buildings on the outer rows were called hotels and those were the dining halls where students would eat and in between those larger structures are student rooms where the students resided kitchens were buried in the
basements. although that was very rare in the 19th century american south. and the area bound in orange where the work yards the areas that today are beautiful gardens. were hidden behind high walls, but that was the area where animals were kept and later butchered food was prepared clothes were washed over large vats of boiling water. and the list goes on and on. these work yards were the plantations for enslaved residents, but here almost in an urban setting densely packed. so in the universities first decades, there were three groups of people who lived at uva. faculty hotel keepers both of whom kept people they owned kept enslaved people and the students and of course the enslaved.
the early rules for the university written by thomas jefferson all 95 pages of them included the following line. no student shall keep a servant. and for decades the enactments were used by the university as a way to say that there weren't enslaved people at uva. it became an easy cover. for their denial but if you keep reading in the rules and in the university's archives you learn that the university required the hotel keepers to keep at least one enslaved person for every 20 students that they served. the faculty themselves also owned people because that is who provided the food and the domestic service to those households. many volumes have been written about jefferson and slavery. but in short it is worth keeping
in mind the following that jefferson himself wrote in notes on the state of virginia. in which he spoke about the corrupting influence of slavery. there must doubtless be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people produced by the existence of slavery among us. the whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions? the most unrelenting despotism on the one part and degrading submissions on the other. the man must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and morals underpraved by such circumstances. jefferson had written that in 1785. he knew well the cost of slavery.
he knew well the corrupting influence of slavery yet. he never worked to end it. and here at the end of his life in the 1820s. he knew. that it was absolutely central to the success of his institution. in fact, it was part of his reason for founding the university of virginia. he wrote that in its founding the university. he was hoping to create a university in the south where students. would be protected from those who are quote opposed to us in principle in quote. that is from the very beginning the university of virginia was a pro-slavery institution. instead of students bringing their own enslaved people the
university required that the hotel keepers keep enslaved people. jefferson was aware of the complex power structures that would exist at a university. and by not letting students bring their own enslaved people by making all of the enslaved people at uva subject to the authority of the university. it meant that the university might be better able to control them. the end result was instead though that students behaved as if all of the enslaved were their personal property. and violence was a constant threat for those enslaved at uva. jefferson had worked to hide slavery in his designs for the university pushing the work into basement kitchens that were ill-suited to the task and hidden behind high walls that masked their labor.
but with time the faculty and the hotel keepers added additional buildings. they built kitchens in the work yards. they added buildings for dairies for chicken coops. for wood sheds and places where the enslaved could live because at any one time there were 100 to 200 enslaved people residing at the university. some in purpose-built buildings. there are very few surviving. this is one of them greatly altered from when it was constructed. most have been removed. today that history has been erased. what were the work yards of the university of virginia are now beautiful garden spaces? they are the spaces that students love to go to for
garden parties for weddings for studying for contemplation. but these were work yards. they were spaces of hard messy labor the sites of work. where things such as butchering hogs for smoking. preparing food washing linens chopping wood. it was what was necessary for the several hundred faculty and students who lived there to be able to live there. and the faculty were very involved in the daily life of students and on the screen, you'll see from the faculty minutes the bill of fair that the faculty said hotel keepers must provide at a minimum. and everything that you're reading there that was expected to be served to students had to be raised prepared and butchered on the grounds because uva at this time is really in the middle of nowhere it is
essentially in a surrounded by a plantation landscape. so while this history is largely obliterated. by turning the gardens into spaces of leisure and the removal of most of the buildings. they're actually is so much evidence that survives. casting a shadow over the landscape even though for decades we walked right by it without asking questions. so here is the basement of one of those hotels hotel a where enslaved people would have lived? where meals would have been prepared? and of course in the basement, there are large cook kitchens surviving. not only in the hotels but in the pavilions in all of the early buildings. the faculty were also deeply involved in designating the duty of the enslaved regularly expecifying specifying what they expected to be accomplished for
the students. and as i said, the faculty themselves owned people who were expected to provide for their individual households. as i had learned in my work enrichment, it was really important to try to help modern audiences. imagine the landscape of the past because the curtain current gardens are really powerful images. so we have worked to create this landscape. building by building this work involves extensive research photography archeology comparison with similar buildings in order to allow for reconstructions such as these our goal building by building is to reconstruct the entire academical village as jefferson called it. and maybe one day we can even repopulate the gardens with the cows pigs and chickens that wandered among them.
and we've learned that we can use the power of technology. to help connect people with the landscapes of the past past by connecting them with the landscape of the present that they know so well. and all of this work has allowed us to more fully understand the university's past. to recover a history that for so long had been deliberately suppressed. this work the work of dozens of students over many years has clearly had a huge impact because at uva the public memory has changed. now instead of just shadows this history. is broadly known? all students now know that this was a landscape of slavery. and there are multiple markers recognizing this.
there are now several buildings named after people who had been enslaved there including a new dormitory named after william and isabella gibbons. and when dedicated many of their descendants were able to return the university has begun to build relationship that it's working to repair with the local african-american community in charlottesville. many of whom are likely descended from people who were enslaved at the university. and our work has been able to restore the names of hundreds of people who were enslaved there. and you see some of their names on the screen here. and that has been able to be a really important part of the transformation of uva's landscape. and that is the addition of the memorial to enslaved laborers. where their names are etched in
a monumental stonewall? and here you see it after a rain where the water picks out the names. and those blank gashes or for the people's whose names? we don't yet and may never know. this is such a significant transformation to the university's landscape. in part because of its really important placement this massive circle the same circumference as jefferson's rotunda. placed very near jefferson's rotunda and you see here an aerial shot and you can see the lit up memorial at the bottom and jefferson's rotunda above it and this a major walkway for anybody visiting the university. so in close proximity to jefferson's academical village. here in this moment in our
presence. in our present the scholarship of a large team of students. working for years has been able to make visible what was deliberately suppressed for more than a century. it has helped the university's present acknowledge and memorialize its past as an important step. in that university being able to have conversations about its more inclusive future. so, thank you, and i'm looking forward to your questions and our conversation. who's gonna be brave and be the first to go? yes. that stand we have a because it
might do you mind coming up here to this mic. come on up. yeah stand right there. it can pick you up. so first of all, thank you for being here. so i i know in the presentation you did speak about the impacts of george floyd's death in virginia and how that has changed the landscape here, but i did want to ask you in the last couple years. we have seen pushback on any kind of talks of diversity. we've seen anything and any talks of of education accused being accused of and called critical race theory. have you seen those conversations impact your work in a negative in a negative light? thank you so much for that question. it's a really important one and i i do. think we are at such an
important moment. where? we are having this battle. right between a past that wanted to keep these stories suppressed and demands that we not do that right that we are honest about our past that we tell an inclusive history that is honest about what happened in this country and about its long lingering shadows into our present. and it is not at all surprising to me that we're having these battles because all along the way in the work i've done in my scholarship. i've faced those battles right that we are not really at a new moment. it's just now i think been elevated to a new place. so in the work i've done, you know, my work's been very place based. so i worked a lot on the city of charleston working to help them
move their plantation rememberances from just talking about the white families that live there to talking about. everybody who lived there acknowledging their enslaved past and then the work in virginia also, and we faced that same pushback right when we did the exhibit at the library of virginia when i started this work at the university of virginia. there was a lot of pushback particularly in the alumni community. why are we talking about jefferson and slavery, right? that is the past. and people wanted it suppressed. so what where we are now is a place where many more of us are having these conversations and as painful as the pushback is we're having the conversations and i think we just have to keep doing this work and having these
conversations and i don't expect it's going to be resolved quickly. here anybody with a question other questions and now i think we have a mic that can come to you. different ask questions about the art yes. i just had a question about some architecture that i saw into the images, um in the gardens you were talking about there's curvatures in the walls. is that just architectural detail that was added to be interesting or was that part of the slave work that you talked about? yeah. so the enslaved people one of the things about the construction of the university of virginia here. it is kind of in the middle of nowhere charlottesville was a teeny little town more than a mile away from where the
university is located and all of the bricks on the site are made by enslaved people. so the good thing for for the construction was that charlottesville is in a place with the perfect kind of red clay, so enslaved people had to dig the clay put it in brick molds fire it dry it and then haul it to the site. so the question about the curved walls, which often referred to as serpentine walls those walls would have been entirely made by enslaved people. and they were put around the work yards as a way of really segregating the zones between where enslaved people were and where students and faculty were so there were kind of enslaved zones and free zones the reason they are serpentine jefferson would have seen those kinds of walls in his travels
particularly in england where they were common in gardens so they are both they i think to jefferson they were both ornamentally appealing but they also had the advantage of of using fewer bricks because in their curve they were strong enough to stand up only one brick thick whereas if you have a straight wall you had to lay it in english or flemish bond, and it used many more bricks because it needed to be really thick to stand so the walls that are there today are mostly reconstructed and they're reconstructed lower than they originally were the original walls were about eight feet high you could not see in to or out of those work yards. so coming going through your research. you came across how these
pavilions a little work areas that the sleeves worked in they were covered over with gardens. do you know when that happened and did that coincide with any um, like historical event in the south possibly. you are so present great question. so those gardens were all put in in the 1950s as and by the person who designed many of the gardens at colonial williamsburg, so in the 20th century the early 20th century when americans are fascinated by their colonial past they build many mythologies about their colonial past many of which were kind of very connected to england and their imagining that their life here in america was a lot like england and so in colonial williamsburg, they imagined that people had stunning elaborate gardens and there were some in williamsburg and so they imagined the same
thing for uva as well that what would have been behind these pavilions would have been leisure gardens, you know think a jane austen novel that you stroll through in, you know, as you're afternoon leisure and so that's when they were all put in what's interesting about them now is they are now historically important. because they are a really important document about colonial revival taste. right and about a really important colonial revival garden designer. so there are many layers of history at uva as there would be at any historic site that's been around for a long time. question. yes. well firstly thank you professor for this because i know there is a huge conversation, especially in classrooms about the contention of speaking about the past and a lot of times people
take it as oh well, why are you blaming the students? why are you trying to cause the spirit of guilt? do you believe that using art was an easier segue into having that conversation and like using the visual aspects instead of just lecturing about it? yeah. great question. i mean, i i myself am a visual learner right? so when i was like you a student in college, i took both a ton of history classes and a lot of art history classes and for some reason for me there were many things that came up in the visual that somehow wasn't covered in my history classes and connected with me as human being and so for me, i've always found the visual a more human way into history and it often is more about the lived experience and when i was in undergraduate most history was political
history and military history, and we really history classes didn't talk about how humans lived very much. so i've always liked that what i believe is really powerful about crows images if you spend a lot of time looking at them is they allow you to talk about the american slave trade on a very personal human level much of the scholarship. although it's changed in the last five years, but when i was starting this work much of the scholarship about the slave trade focused on numbers it focused on the mechanism it. talked about the money and the economic impact, but i was really drawn to this man.
a man who is sitting there with his arms crossed and his fists clenched who is clearly indignant at what is happening. i was really taken by the connection of these mothers with their young children. and i think and the moment he chose for this painting. most abolitionist imagery focused on the auction itself and the kind of theater of that moment, you know prices rising, you know, the hammers, you know going going sold like that drama of this of the sale. but he represented them sitting there. thinking about the fate that was before them. and i thought that was just such a different way into thinking about the slave trade as really the story of the ripping apart
of families, right because what we have here the mothers have their young children, but other than that there there are no connections between these people they've been taken away from their families and they're about to be sent on a journey either overland. sometimes they were all the way. to louisiana or on the railroads, the railroads only come in in the 1850s. and they will never see their families again. and after the war there are newspapers in the african-american communities. advertising help me find so and so so you find people in virginia taking out advertisements in louisiana saying my son was sold away from me. in richmond in the 1850s.
does anyone know what happened to him? can anybody find him? and so that was what the art did for me that really pulled me into this history in a different way. so we've been looking at how the the form of artwork also significant and we would we'd call this a genre painting wouldn't we we would call this a genre painting and and so we're so we're also thinking who i mean air crows not even from the united states and yet he's creating a genre painting of this place and then so we would we would ask ourselves. who was that for right? yeah. so the size and everything would be significant great questions. so this painting air crow creates an exhibits for the british royal academy exhibit in
1861. now he's being very politically clever and doing that because the war had just erupted in america, the british newspapers are talking about it constantly because great britain makes so much money from american cotton. right the uk is economically dependent on slavery in the american south right because all that cotton ends up in the mills in the uk. so everybody's talking about the war. and so he goes back to what were his sketches that he had made in the 1850s some of which he had already published in the illustrated london news, which was a illustrated newspaper and he had gotten a lot of attention for those but he knew if he did this for the royal academy he would get attention. and in fact, it was one of the most frequently commented on
works. there was one other imagery of american slavery in that same exhibit. it's a painting called hunted slaves and it shows slaves running away. but that person had never been to america had never met an enslaved person and it was called a bit of studio romance. and they talked about the verisimilitude of this work. they knew crow had been there because they had read as writings in the illustrated in london news. he very interestingly you can't see it. but if you look at the painting really closely he signs it by painting as if he's moved the sand on the floor with his finger to write his name. right, so it becomes this like physical statement. i was here. in a very different way, so that was his audience and he played a bit because there are a number of things. he did an articles.
he wrote in the illustrated london news as part of his activity as a light scale abolitionist like he's not a major activist, but he did play a role in that movement. any other questions? right here. i'm not really too. i'm not really too sure if this is like your research because you kind of you know, say 1850s in the 1800s, but you mentioned before that the paving over the gardens that was happening in the 1950s. does the legacy the civil rights movement have to do anything with this or is that nothing you cover? i'm just curious. you know, it's really interesting, virginia. i mean when we think about have you all heard about the unite the right rally that happened in charlottesville in 2017, right?
it is not surprising that richard spencer chose charlottesville for that. charlottesville relatively small town right? it's a town of about 55,000 people, right? so this is not a big city had four civil war monuments one to robert e. lee one to stonewall jackson and two what are often referred to as standing soldiers? you know the kind of anonymous civil war soldiers. richard spencer had a connection with uva. so that was part of it, but charlottesville was a city that in the 1950s. decided to close its city schools. rather than integrate. it's a movement referred to as massive resistance. this happened in not throughout the state of virginia, but in multiple cities throughout, virginia. so the local residents were so opposed to integration after the
ruling brown v board of education. they closed their schools, right? it had a deeply racist history. and so when the city voted to remove the statue of robert e lee, but they didn't do it quickly enough, right? it became a site. a great site for them to have this protest uva somehow or another manages not to integrate. it's undergraduate population until 1968. well after the civil rights movement and i will point out well after the university of alabama the university of mississippi, right you can go on and on with other schools that integrated earlier. so it's connection to civil rights is in a group of very powerful white southerners whose vision of uva in the past looks
a lot like what they reconstructed with these gardens and this beautiful erased history of slavery. so it matched their mythology. yeah. one more question okay, that was me. my question is if it's similar though, but i was gonna say that i noticed that you talked a lot in your research about the work you had to do going through like records to kind of uncover a lot of that loss history due to like infrastructure changes and everything like that and my initial question was going to be did you find that a lot of that like covering up of that past legacy was purposeful or accidental but it seems like you were kind of leaning towards that a lot of it was purposeful or like intentional one. i guess. i'm asking that and two if it was purposeful. do you think that you would have had an easier or more difficult time with your research had that kind of been from just a lack of care and not like a conscious effort to cover things up.
yeah. it's a great question and and i would say it's a mix right? it's you know a lot of the buildings in the gardens where ultimately taken down. because they fell down right, you know, they they were in disrepair or they didn't have a use anymore. some of them were taken down as part the garden. so some of it was purposeful in some of it just happened over time. the good news is the university had completely kept all their records, right? so there was not that purposeful, right and the needles are all in those haystacks to find and it's been the extraordinary work of people like you of students who for 10 years. have been reading through what are hundreds of linear feet of 19th century documents, right? so it's official university records. it's letters and diaries of students and a faculty and of people who visited and they just
keep finding more and more stuff that allows us to tell the lives and the histories of more and more people and connect more of the dots of what it was like at uva in the first 50 years. what was purposeful was the university never acknowledging this history, right? so, you know when you it used to be that if you went to the university's history page about the institution, there was no mention of slavery when you went into the rotunda that had a museum display talking about jefferson's designs for the university or talking about student life at the university. not a mention of slavery that has all changed. they've redesigned all those exhibits. they now freely and openly acknowledge it they built the memorial they've renamed buildings like it's an entirely different memorialized landscape now, then it was 10 years ago and that changes been pretty swift the first thing the
university did was in 2007. the board did pass a resolution acknowledging their slavery and then they put in a plaque on the ground. that was i don't know maybe 18 inches or two feet high and it said i may not get this exactly right. i used to know a word for word, but it was like to the free and enslaved laborers who helped realize thomas jefferson's vision for the university of virginia. that in 2007 was what they thought was an acknowledgment of slavery. dave obviously come a long way since then. all right. well, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to speak with you. really great to meet you all and i reallyand now for the main eve