The IDEA Fund’s inaugural “Big IDEA” was to enhance public knowledge of the University’s early history as it relates to slavery. Led by Trustee Chair Tierney Fairchild, this initiative sought to fill the gap in institutional knowledge and acknowledgement about the University’s relationship to slavery, thereby enhancing public understanding of the University’s early life.
Since launching this Big IDEA in 2011, we have seen a foundation of support grow at the University for exploring and understanding its relationship to slavery, exemplifying the IDEA Fund’s wish that promotion of a Big IDEA lead to a more thorough integration of its values into the fabric of the University as a whole. Recent and rewarding evidence of this is the forming of the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University, on which the IDEA Fund has a seat, and their 2014 symposium, “Universities Confronting the Legacy of Slavery.” This Big IDEA was approached from many angles and through various projects, including:
- Commissioned a report cataloging past and current events, scholarly activities, and initiatives addressing the University’s historical relationship to slavery, giving a structural framework to this work to better the Institution’s ability to address the topic. See the resulting document here: Slavery at the University of Virginia: A Catalogue of Current and Past Initiatives.
- Commissioned a plaque to honor the life of Henry Martin (1826-1915), a person who was enslaved at the beginning of his long employ at UVa. The plaque was installed outside the chapel in 2012.
- Brought attention to this topic by identifying related projects by other University entities that would benefit from financial support and participation, including:
- The Fund paid the production and printing costs for a student-led collaborative effort to develop a brochure that provides visitors to the Rotunda and to Grounds information about the University’s history with slavery.
- The Fund co-organized and co-sponsored the panel discussion “Legitimate Fruits of Freedom: The African American Struggle for Equal Opportunity in 19th Century Albemarle County,” part of the annual community wide MLK celebration organized by the ODE and held at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center.
- The Fund was a sponsor for UCARE’s 2013 Virginia Universities and Race Histories Conference, and Trustees participated at the conference.