Slave to Scholar
Tours highlight African-American history at U.Va.
By Daniela Montalvo
a tour of U.Va. any day with the University Guide Service, and
you will learn about serpentine walls, rooms on the Lawn, pavilions
and, of course, Thomas Jefferson. But if you took a Slave
to Scholar tour during February, you would have heard quite
a different talk the history of African Americans at the
University of Virginia.
year, members of the guide service decided to help make the University
community aware of this rich history by creating a tour called
From Slave to Scholar: The History of African Americans
at U.Va. The tour highlights the presence of African Americans
on Grounds, from their contributions as slaves during the Universitys
construction to the development of present organizations such
as the Office of African-American Affairs.
tour is the brainchild of Erin-Marie Burke, a fourth-year student
in the College of Arts & Sciences.
a black female, I realized that my being at the University was
a result of many factors that I had no control over, like desegregation,
court cases and affirmative action practices, Burke said.
I started [the tour] with the intention of explaining all
aspects of U.Va. history while instilling a sense of pride and
ownership within the black community of Charlottesville and University
what is this rich history? Third-year Arts & Sciences student
Ryan ODonnell, braving the winter weather on Feb. 22, talked
to a group of eager tourists about slavery, segregation and current
race relations at U.Va.
helped build the University in the early 1800s while living in
the basements of the pavilions on the Lawn, ODonnell explained.
the first half of the 20th century, Charlottesville and U.Va.,
like many other parts of the South, were seeing the effects of
segregation. Gregory Swanson broke that barrier when he became
the first black student at U.Va., gaining admission to the Law
School in 1950. He eventually left because of the uncomfortable
racial climate. In 1954, Robert Bland became the first black undergraduate
Despite the obstacles, an African-American presence eventually
grew at U.Va., and now it is known for its high graduation rate
for black students.
though the tours have been part of Black History Month, Burke
and others would like to see a larger presence.
Franklin, a third-year undergraduate student on ODonnells
tour, said, I am appreciative of the option to have this
tour, especially since it explores a not-so-positive past. But
I believe it should be a more current option and should be offered
contact the University Guide Service, call 924-3239 or visit the
Web site at http://uvaguides.zapto.org/default.htm.