CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Engraved on the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers are the names of enslaved people who were owned by the University of Virginia and its professors. When the memorial was first erected, some members of Myra Anderson’s family weren’t included.
“In one way it feels very satisfying to have the names, but in another way, it really feels sad [because] the reason that those names are on the wall,” Anderson said.
She spent over a year working to get five names added to the wall.
“My ancestors were enslaved here,” Anderson said. “They were stripped of their dignity and their humanity so a part of my motivation and getting those names up there is just to add dignity back and humanity back to what they went through.”
Now the names of five more of the Hern family are etched in the wall, and will remain there forever. Anderson’s cousin Candace Bates drove from North Carolina to be a part of the ceremony.
“Today was a bit difficult,” she said. “Simply because there are masses of names here and some people don’t have last names. Some people don’t have first names and it’s just their job.”
The university says it accepts its truth of its past and is working to build relationships with descendants.
“We know that there has been frustration throughout this process and we acknowledge that it has been incredibly difficult,” UVA Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Community Partnerships Kevin McDonald said.
Although always a part of the history of the university, the names of Davey Hern, Fanny Gillete Hern, Bonnie Castle Hern, Lily Hern, and Ben Snowden will now be etched in the memorial for generations to see.
“My nephew, and my little cousins, and all of them will know from a very early age, what the connection is [to the university], and we will never lose that history again,” Anderson said.