Roanoke College unveiled commemorative plaques on its campus to honor the slaves that helped build the campus nearly two centuries ago in a ceremony Thursday.
The plaques, now hanging on the twin pillars outside Roanake’s administrative building, reads, “HONORING THE LIVES OF ENSLAVED SKILLED LABORERS WHOSE CONTRIBUTIONS TO ROANOKE COLLEGE MUST BE ACKNOWLEDGED AND ALWAYS REMEMBERED.”
Brothers Peyton and Charles Lewis, and Baldwin Simms were a few of the slaves memorialized by name in the new installation. Jordan Robinson, a student at Roanoke, spoke on behalf of the college’s Black Student Alliance during the ceremony.
Other schools in Virginia have made similar strides to acknowledge their controversial histories, such as Washington and Lee University which introduced a marker in 2016 to recognize the slaves who were owned by the school prior to the Civil War.
Jesse Bucher, an associate professor in Roanoake’s history program, stressed the importance of acknowledging that slave owners made up a majority of the school’s leadership long ago. Bucher, along with local historians, is continuing genealogical research into the town’s mid-1800s history to hopefully reveal more names of the forgotten laborers.
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