The design of a new Memorial to Enslaved African American Laborers on the grounds of the University of Virginia marks a critical moment to address the complex history of the University—and of the country.
The Memorial to Enslaved Laborers responds to a deep need to address an untold and uncomfortable history - one that is still very much a difficult, though necessary, national conversation on race. It is vital to highlight those African American historical sites, ones that are often hiding in plain sight.
UVA’s Memorial to Enslaved Laborers should create a physical place of remembrance and a symbolic acknowledgement of a difficult past. The memorial should become a place of learning as well as a place of healing.
The memorial must address multiple constituencies on UVA grounds and within the Charlottesville community, in particular the descendants of African Americans who built, worked, and lived at the University.
The memorial is part of a larger, ongoing process at the University spearheaded by the President's Commission on Slavery and the University (PCSU). PCSU began in 2013, guided by the work of groups such as Memorial for Enslaved Laborers (MEL), the UVa IDEA (Inclusion Diversity Equity Access) Fund, and University and Community Action for Racial Equity (UCARE). Click here for more information on the PCSU
The design team for the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers combines a unique set of skills and experiences to ensure a successful community engagement process and development of the memorial’s design.
Each member of the team represents a key area of expertise that is essential to the successful completion of the memorial project:
Meejin Yoon is an architect, designer, and principal of Höweler + Yoon Architecture based in Boston. She is also a Professor and Head of the Department of Architecture at MIT. She recently completed the Collier Memorial on MIT's Campus, in honor of the MIT Police Officer slain in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombings.
Dr. Mabel O Wilson (UVA '85) is a historian and designer. She is a professor of Architecture at Columbia University. She recently published Begin with the Past: Building the National African American Museum of History and Culture.
Gregg Bleam of Gregg Bleam Landscape Architect is a landscape architect based locally here in Charlottesville. He has previously taught at the UVA School of Architecture, teaching graduate and undergraduate landscape and architecture courses for ten years.
Dr. Frank Dukes (UVA ’75) is a Distinguished Institute Fellow at the Institute for Environmental Negotiation here at UVA. He has extensive experience in facilitating conversations among diverse communities and has led the community engagement portion of the design process.
Eto Otitigbe is a polymedia artist who creates sculpture, installation and public interventions. In 2015 Otitigbe was awarded a CEC Artslink Project Award for travel to Egypt where he participated in outreach projects and explored several of the monumental antiquities. Otitigbe received a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship for study at the National Museum of African Art. Otitigbe's role on the design team is focused on creating imagery for the exterior surface of the memorial that pays tribute to the enslaved laborers. His design process includes historical research, community outreach, and dialogue with members of enslaved descendant communities.