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AAA Editor Notes
University of Virginia is in the center of town on US 29 and US 250 Bus. Rtes. Thomas Jefferson founded this “academical village” in 1819 and devoted his final years to its design, construction and curriculum. The state university opened in 1825 with 123 students and a hand-picked faculty of American and European scholars.

Seeking to create an environment in which learning infused daily life, Jefferson planned the school with 10 pavilions built around an expansive lawn. Each pavilion contained a professor’s home and classrooms, with students’ quarters interspersed between the pavilions. At the outside edges of the village are the “hotels” that served as student dining halls; between the hotels and the pavilions were once work yards enclosed by serpentine walls where enslaved people lived and worked, spaces that are now spectacular gardens. At the heart of the campus grounds is the Rotunda, a domed library modeled after the Pantheon in Rome.

Down the hill east of the Rotunda, the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers recognizes and commemorates the approximately 4,000 enslaved people who resided and labored on-site between 1817 and 1865. The open circular shape of the two nested rings references both the shackles of slavery and their casting off in liberation. Rising granite walls, 8 feet at the highest point, contain inscriptions and “memory marks” recognizing named and unknown enslaved laborers. The inside walls contain benches for reflection as well as a water table with timeline of the university's history of slavery. A grassy interior lawn serves as a place for open-air classes and performances.

Guided tours are available.

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