Two hundred years ago, Thomas Jefferson came to an abandoned farm to begin marking out the landscape for the university he planned to create, accompanied by his overseer and 10 slaves.
“From the very first moment, this is a story where there are often more enslaved people than designers, or professors, or students” at the University of Virginia, said Kirt von Daacke, a professor and assistant dean.
The bricks that built Jefferson’s vision of a place where students and professors lived and worked and learned together were dug out of clay by enslaved people, shaped by enslaved people, baked in kilns by enslaved people. The stone for the stately steps and architectural details was quarried and carved by enslaved people. And much of the building was done by enslaved people, usually “rented” from slave owners in the surrounding area.