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UVa to add portraits, markers to commemorate trailblazers

The University of Virginia announced Thursday a project to add to and update the campus — part of which is a UNESCO World Heritage site — with new markers, portraits, photographs and digital tours.

The university, which in the wake of the 2017 Unite the Right rally commissioned several committees to look at the future of its physical space and to study specific people and sites for recognition, plans to make several changes this spring.

It will commission photo portraits and paintings that recognize student leaders, faculty, staff members and administrators who have broken down racial, gender and social barriers at UVa.

While the university has recently named and hung portraits of several of the first African American graduates, a committee report noted in 2018, mention of other trailblazers was “oddly absent.”

“Most of us are shaped in part by the models or role models we know,” the report said. “Ought not the place tell their stories and thus enrich its students and others?”

The first new portrait has been painted by second-year student Sophia Kedzierski, according to the university. It features civil rights legend Julian Bond, and will hang in a new dorm named after the UVa history professor.

Additional portraits will highlight, among others, Pennsylvania state Rep. James Roebuck, UVa’s first African American Student Council president; the late anthropology professor Karenne Wood, a lifelong advocate for Native Americans; George Keith Martin, the first African American rector of the University; and Teresa Sullivan, UVa’s first female president.

Others will feature current faculty and staff members, including UVa professor Rita Dove, Pulitzer Prize winner and U.S. poet laureate from 1993 to 1995, and Kathy McGruder, a cashier in Newcomb Dining Hall known for brightening students’ days with her kind, exuberant greetings.

UVa also will create a series of markers commemorating important moments and places that are not currently marked on Grounds.

For example, a new marker near Peabody Hall will tell the story of Virginia Scott, who, as a high school senior in 1969, joined three other students to sue the University in federal court for admittance to the College of Arts & Sciences. Her case forced the university to accept full coeducation.

Another marker near the Rotunda will commemorate the “Coat and Tie Rebellion” on Feb. 16, 1969, when students staged an anti-war and pro-civil rights demonstration. Hundreds rallied in coats and ties, a nod to traditional dress code, and presented 11 demands to then-President Edgar Shannon, calling for an increase in black student enrollment, an African American dean of admissions, a black studies program and union efforts for university workers.

On McCormick Road, a marker will note the “Black Bus Stop,” which for decades served as a gathering spot for UVa’s African American students.

The university will also add two new digital tours to the “Walking Tours of UVA Grounds” app hosted by the university library. One will include the new Memorial to Enslaved Laborers, which will be dedicated in April, and one will cover the broader Grounds.


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