By Rosaland Tyler
New Journal and Guide
A brick fireplace which will symbolize a workspace and gathering place for slaves has been selected for the Memorial to African-Americans Enslaved by William & Mary.
According to a recent news release, William and Mary 2011 graduate William Sendor created the concept which aims is to rekindle the memory of the enslaved, illuminate a place to reflect on the university’s past and radiate freedom and hope for the future.
President Katherine A. Rowe said in a recent statement, “The hearth is an ancient, powerful symbol of home, of community, and of belonging. The exploited labor of enslaved African-Americans helped create William & Mary, and this memorial concept will unequivocally recognize their lasting contributions to this institution, with humility, gratitude, and conscience.”
Sendor’s concept was chosen from more than 80 submissions from individuals across 16 states and four continents through an international competition launched in August 2018. A nine-member jury of professionals in the fields of history, museums and the arts sorted through the applications but Rowe chose the winning concept.
Sendor, a North Carolina-based architectural designer who holds a degree in government from the university, said, “When I heard about the memorial design competition, I knew that I had to participate. A project of this magnitude and this importance is a rare and incredible opportunity, to be able to contribute to telling the story of — and paying tribute to — the enslaved people is especially close to my heart being an alumnus of the College.”
The effort to honor slaves associated with university dates back to 2007. The Student Assembly passed a resolution proposed by William and Mary 2008 graduate Tiseme Zegeye calling for the university to research its role in slavery, make the findings public, and establish a memorial to the enslaved.
Launching the Lemon Project in 2009, which honors a university-owned slave named Lemon, the project has included class discussions, as well as the Lemon Project Committee on Memorialization, which recommended this competition.
In 2016, W&M renamed two residence halls in honor of Lemon and Carroll F.S. Hardy, a longtime administrator and diversity pioneer at W&M.
“I am proud that W&M is taking this step to move these enslaved laborers out of the shadows,” said Jody Allen, a history professor who directs the Lemon Project with Ed Pease, instructor of art and art history.
Other related efforts include the 50th anniversary of the school’s first African-American residential students. It was celebrated during the 2017-2018 academic year. In April 2018, the university hung a plaque dedicated to those three women on the Wren Building’s portico.
That same month, the W&M Board of Visitors passed a resolution apologizing for the university’s history of slavery and racial discrimination. Earlier this semester, a plaque marking the location of the Bray School, an 18th-century school for African-American children, was unveiled.