Special Collections Enriches High Schoolers’ Research into Legacy of Slavery on Grounds

A recent article in UVA Today describes how a group of high school students literally got their hands dirty this summer, digging in the earth of James Madison’s Montpelier plantation to uncover evidence of how enslaved workers lived in the 19th century. In the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library they went through original documents to find out how slaves and freed blacks contributed to building Jefferson’s University.

As part of UVA’s first Cornerstone Summer Institute, Special Collections librarian Heather Riser and John Witherell showed the students Jefferson’s will, some of his letters, and design drawings he made of the University.


Heather Riser, Director of Operations for the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, shows a Jefferson letter to interested high school students.

The students’ research into the Special Collections documents contributed to their final presentations, which Alison Jawetz—a 2015 American studies graduate and co-founder of the program—said allowed “them to demonstrate their understanding that the legacies of slavery are not ancient history – they are very relevant to contemporary society.”

Read the full article: “New Summer Program Helps High School Students Grasp Legacy of Slavery” (UVA Today, 7/6/2016)

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