Today marks the official launch of the Law Library’s online exhibit “50 Years of BLSA,” the product of a months-long collaboration between Law Special Collections and the Black Law Students Association at UVA Law. Explore the exhibit here.
On October 16, 1970, UVA Law’s Black students founded a chapter of the Black American Law Students Association (BALSA, now BLSA) to advocate for issues of racial justice. The founding priorities included increasing Black student enrollment, hiring Black faculty, and creating an engaged and welcoming environment at UVA Law.
The online exhibit provides a deep dive into BLSA’s founding and five decades of student activism, service, and community at the Law School. The site’s five sections (History, Service, Black Excellence, Reflections, and Gallery) share both the Law Library’s archival collections and BLSA’s resources.
Forming Partnerships with Student Groups
As BLSA’s 50th anniversary approached, Law Special Collections and the BLSA executive board agreed to collaborate on a project to exhibit BLSA’s history. We met frequently with Allison Burns ’22 (BLSA President) and Genesis Moore ’23 (BLSA Historian) to determine the content and layout of the site, and to exchange resources. We are thankful for their time and input.
Our collaboration with BLSA is Special Collections’ first direct collaboration with a student organization, and we are proud to launch what we hope to be a rich resource for those interested in the Law School’s history.
We look forward to future collaborations with other student groups to highlight the many histories and experiences that make up UVA Law.
Header image: BALSA Executive Board, 1971-1972.
From left to right, front row: Arthur C. McFarland ’73, Stephanie Valentine Carpenter ’73, and Charles E. Walker ’73.
Back row, Jerry Williams ’73, Leroy W. Bannister ’73, Bobby Vassar ’72, and John W. Scott, Jr. ’73, pictured in 1971, Records of the Virginia Law Weekly.
Addie Patrick is the Library Coordinator with the UVA Law Library. She assists with Special Collections' many projects and with Circulation.
Faculty Chairmen and the Lives of Enslaved People at the University of Virginia
To mark the launch of Slavery & the University of Virginia School of Law, a digital initiative exploring the law school’s historical connections to slavery, we offer the following post that recounts interactions between UVA Law faculty in their role as faculty chairmen with enslaved workers on Grounds. At the University of Virginia, precious little exists of first-person slave narratives that might tell us more about the enslaved community here and how they shaped, experienced, and felt about their lives. Even so, the accounts available from the faculty chairmen’s recordings can offer important instances of enslaved individuals’ ingenuity, bravery, and self-determination. We invite patrons to explore related content at slavery.law.virginia.edu.
A ‘Firm and Inflexible Execution of the Laws’: Policing Students and Enslaved Workers
In 1827, the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia set into motion several enactments, one of which established a faculty chairman “charged with superintending the execution of all laws made for its government.” The faculty chairman was elected annually by the faculty and paid $500. In 1831, the position was appointed by the Board of Visitors. This role was one of great responsibility and prestige. As chief executive officer, the faculty chairman was tasked with presiding over all the faculty in addition to enforcing order on Grounds. When a serious disciplinary matter arose, it was the duty of the faculty chairman to try the individual(s) involved before the faculty. For less serious offenses, the faculty chairman could determine the consequence on his own. By 1831, the enactments stipulated that the faculty chairman also keep a journal of offenses and reprimands and present them before the Board of Visitors at their meetings. This same requirement was accompanied by the remark that the University expected “a mild and paternal, yet firm and inflexible execution of the laws.”
Two law professors served as faculty chairman during the antebellum period: John Tayloe Lomax (1827-1828, 1830) and John A.G. Davis (1835-1837, 1839-1840). Adjudicating offenses occurring on Grounds—everything from tardiness to outright violence—produced telling interactions between these professors and enslaved workers whose lives overlapped with faculty, students, hotelkeepers, and others. A faculty chairman’s approach to policing on-Grounds offenses effectively relied as much on his knowledge of the rules laid out in the enactments as it did his own personal judgement of how enslaved workers and students should conduct themselves. Collectively, the incidents adjudicated by the faculty chairmen reveal that the presence of enslaved laborers on Grounds shaped and sometimes challenged how faculty chairmen enforced order.
Defining Order Amidst Resistance and Rebellion
While many of the disciplinary guidelines laid out in the enactments involved students and the authority of professors to police and reprimand them when necessary, the enactments applied to all occupants of the University precincts.
The words “slave” or “servant” are never mentioned specifically in the enactments, but enslaved people were regular participants in the chairman’s adjudication duties. Scattered throughout the chairman’s journals are references to acts of resistance and rebellion by enslaved workers on Grounds. Entries also provide at least some sense of the lives of enslaved laborers, including the work they performed; the recreational activities they participated in; the duties they carried out on University property; and, often, illustrations of the abuse and mistreatment they experienced at the hands of University citizens.
Albert was one such enslaved individual who appeared in the 1830-1831 faculty chairman minutes when law professor John Tayloe Lomax served in that position. Albert labored under the employ of Mrs. Sarah Carter Gray, the hotelkeeper for Hotel E in the Academical Village. According to Lomax’s writings, an unidentified enslaved laborer accused Albert of cheating him in a game of cards. It was the unnamed enslaved laborer who appealed to Lomax directly and informed him that the money he had been cheated of belonged to his enslaver, Fendall Carr (the reasons for him having this money remain unknown). Lomax noted that the enslaved laborer was not permitted to appeal to the faculty chairman and therefore “did not deserve, an interference.” Yet, Lomax responded to his request out of a desire to know if gambling was a common occurrence. University enactments in this period banned cards and games of chance from the University precincts. Lomax issued an inquiry, but the only evidence that surfaced was a lone playing card in Albert’s room. Albert denied the accusation and another enslaved laborer came to his defense, further weakening Lomax’s investigation.
In Albert’s case, Lomax was trying to enforce a particular kind of order, one that reflected his views of the law and allowed him to exercise authority over enslaved people. While making note that the enslaved had no legal right to appeal to him, the circumstances prompted Lomax to accept the request and investigate it out of a desire to prevent riotous activity. Ultimately, Lomax had to determine whether or not students were involved in this gambling ring or if the participation of enslaved persons in a prohibited activity affected student life in some way. Thus, enslaved laborers helped define order on Grounds as well as how far the authority of the faculty chairman could extend. Everyone participated in the adjudication of the offense—even those without legal rights. Albert had the final say by making sure the charge in this instance held no weight in the end, although he was later caught gambling once again and that time the incident was turned over to the proctor.
Drawing Upon the Laws of Slavery and Pro-slavery Ideology
Laws of slavery were a part of the legal theories and philosophies law professors taught in the classroom. Student notebooks reveal that such lectures tended to focus on property, debt, and the circumstances under which an enslaved person might be inherited or seized for debt liability. Nonetheless, questions of the morality of enslavement as well as slave discipline were incorporated into these lessons given the curriculum’s heavy emphasis on legal theory, particularly the theories of William Blackstone. In an 1839 lecture, John A.G. Davis agreed with Blackstone that slavery could not be reconciled with natural law. He believed the greater danger, however, would be to free enslaved people. Maintaining order, he argued, entailed keeping Black persons enslaved but approaching them with a level of humanity:
“All that our circumstances have, hitherto permitted, we have done, as we have made that relation as just and mild as is compatible with the public safety, and with the existence and preservation of that kind of prosperity, and doubt now that these people, are more comfortable and happy than the lower classes of people, in any other country.”
While law professors largely operated within the abstract in the classroom, their position as faculty chairmen provided forums for the real-world application of broader philosophical ideas and pro-slavery ideology. In one of his journal entries dated December 9, 1835, Davis mentions being summoned by Mrs. Carter Gray of Hotel E regarding an incident in which a student boarder assaulted an enslaved worker in the hotel. Gray requested Davis’ response to an infraction that had occurred at breakfast that morning when one of her boarders, W.W. Harris, struck William, her Black enslaved servant. Gray claimed that Harris had conducted himself with “great impropriety” when William was “impertinent to him.” Davis felt that William had not acted “to such a degree however as to excuse [Harris’] rudeness & violence.” This was no act of humanity on the part of Davis towards an enslaved person, William. Rather, Davis sought to protect a power balance on campus, one that Harris had jeopardized by exercising physical discipline towards an enslaved person. Davis believed that Harris, the student, had disrespected Gray’s position as a hotelkeeper by responding that he would strike her servant “whenever it pleased him.” Even as a student, Harris felt he could behave as master over an enslaved person on Grounds by reprimanding William with violence. Davis presented the matter before the faculty and Harris was suspended for a week. Upon his return, he was ordered to move to another hotel.
The everyday context in which Davis operated as faculty chairman was one in which the lives of enslaved people intertwined with the white and free Black community. The incidents Davis recorded in his journal show enslaved laborers navigating various spaces and relationships on their own terms. Davis responded to a variety of claims, including an act as mundane as enslaved servants providing “expensive suppers” to students. In another instance, Davis found himself inspecting a basket belonging to an enslaved person who was smuggling rum and whiskey for himself and students. As faculty chairman, Davis was tasked with enforcing the rules and keeping order. The reality of life on Grounds meant that enslaved people were consequential players in the community he policed, and that norms associated with slavery were part of the order he sought to maintain.
Even though the spaces and buildings of the Academical Village were designed to hide the day-to-day work of enslaved people from the academic life of the Lawn, the experiences of the enslaved as described in the faculty chairman journals reveal how intertwined the landscapes of enslavement, education, and student life were on Grounds. Enslaved servants cleaned students’ quarters, ensured they made it to class on time, prepared food, and performed countless other functions for the University. While enslaved people likely benefitted from illicit acts such as smuggling rum, which students no doubt used to their advantage, they also received more severe consequences when caught.
In disciplinary cases involving the enslaved, Professors Lomax and Davis brought their legal training to bear upon extrajudicial matters at the University. But these faculty chairmen were also active participants in upholding a second, unspoken mandate to maintain the subjugation of enslaved individuals. Thus, order at the University of Virginia often entailed justice that did not contravene the logics of chattel slavery, a dynamic illustrated in the aforementioned cases.
 Enactments relating to the Constitution and Government of the University of Virginia: 1827,” Chapter 1, Section 1, Subsection 1, Jefferson’s University … the early life, http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/enactments/1827/enactments-1827.
 “Enactments relating to the Constitution and Government of the University of Virginia: 1831,” Chapter 1, Section 1, Subsection 10, Jefferson’s University … the early life, http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/enactments/1831/enactments-1831.
 “Journals of the Chairman of the Faculty, 1827-1867,” Jefferson’s University … the early life, http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/resources#_ftn1.
 “Enactments relating to the Constitution and Government of the University of Virginia: 1827,” Jefferson’s University … the early life, http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/enactments/1827/enactments-1827; “Enactments relating to the Constitution and Government of the University of Virginia: 1831,” Jefferson’s University … the early life, http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/enactments/1831/enactments-1831.
 “[E]very student who shall within the precincts introduce, keep or use, any spirituous or vinous liquors, or any cards, dice or other implements of gaming, shall be subject to the like punishment,” in “Enactments relating to the Constitution and Government of the University of Virginia: 1827,” Chapter 4, Section 1, Subsection 5, Jefferson’s University … the early life, http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/enactments/1827/enactments-1827. The ban on cards and games of chance is expanded in later Enactments, seemingly to all inhabitants of a Hotel: “Nor shall [a Hotelkeeper] permit his tenement, or any part of it, to be used for any other than the purposes of a boarding-house. Nor shall he suffer any game of chance to be played,” in “Enactments relating to the Constitution and Government of the University of Virginia: 1831,” Chapter 1, Section 4, Subsection 7, Jefferson’s University … the early life, http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/enactments/1831/enactments-1831.
 John Tayloe Lomax, Journals of the Chairman of the Faculty for Session 7b, 1830-1831, 11 February 1831, Jefferson’s University … the early life, http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/chairman-journal/Sessions/session-007b.
 John Tayloe Lomax, Journals of the Chairman of the Faculty for Session 7b, 1830-1831, 30 March 1831, Jefferson’s University … the early life, http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/chairman-journal/Sessions/session-007b.
 G.W. Blatterman, “Law Notes,” 1838-1839, pg. 67, Arthur J. Morris Law Library Special Collections.
 “Faculty Minutes, Session 12, 1835-1836,” 10 December 1835, Jefferson’s University … the early life, http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/faculty-minutes/Sessions/session-012.
 Free African Americans worked at the University in both skilled and unskilled positions. A free Black community formed near the University in a neighborhood called Canada. However, both the University and the state of Virginia did not welcome the presence of free African Americans. An 1806 law stipulated that they vacate the state within a year of emancipation. The thriving Canada neighborhood as well as records revealing that the University paid free Black workers is evidence this law was not strictly enforced. Brendan Wolf, “Kitty Foster,” Encyclopedia Virginia, Virginia Humanities, accessed January 22, 2021, https://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Foster_Kitty_ca_1790-1863#start_entry.
 John A.G. Davis, Journals of the Chairman of the Faculty for Session 12, 1835-1836, 11 March 1836, Jefferson’s University … the early life, http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/chairman-journal/Sessions/session-012.
 John A.G. Davis, Journals of the Chairman of the Faculty for Session 13, 1836-1837, 17 February 1837, Jefferson’s University … the early life, http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/chairman-journal/Sessions/session-013.
Meggan Cashwell is a postdoctoral research associate in legal history for UVA Law Special Collections. She is spearheading the library’s forthcoming edited history of legal education at the Law School (UVA Press).
Logan Heiman was Communications Specialist in the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Technology and UVA Law Library Special Collections. He previously served as project cataloger for the Stuart Cary Welch Islamic and South Asian Photograph Collection at the Harvard Fine Arts Library.
On June 15, 2020, we launched the Marshaling May Days online exhibit and website, the culmination of over a year of research on the law students who served as legal observers (“marshals”) in May 1970 at UVA. This project represents the official rebirth of the law school’s oral history program, originally spearheaded by Frances Farmer (law librarian from 1942 to 1976 and first female professor at UVA Law). Since then, the law library’s oral history collection has remained dormant, until now. This is the story of how an idea became a year-long research quest, full of inspiration and occasionally disappointment (spoiler: COVID-19). From Boynton Beach, Florida to Aspen, Colorado, I describe here the making of Marshaling May Days. It is my hope that those interested in starting their own oral history projects will find wisdom in our process; both in our successes and in our challenges.
Chapter 1: The Beginning
February 2019—May 2019
Our story begins in early 2019, when Ted Hogshire (Law, Class of 1970) reached out to Special Collections Librarian Randi Flaherty about a pseudo-organization he was involved with fifty years ago at UVA Law: “legal marshals.” In the spring of 1970, protests erupted around the country in response to the Nixon administration’s decision to expand the Vietnam War into Cambodia and as a reaction to the National Guard shootings at Kent State University. The legal marshals, Hogshire explained, were a group of law students, mostly third years, that banded together to ensure the First Amendment rights of student protesters at UVA. He believed the legal marshals played a role in ensuring that UVA demonstrations did not turn physically violent, and as such their story should be told. Further, 2020 would mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Class of 1970.
Randi conducted the first oral history of the May Days Oral History Project that February with Ted Hogshire, and that was that for a couple of months.
At this time, I was a third-year student (in the College) studying abroad in Lyon, France. It was not until I applied for a slew of positions through the Institute for Public History (IPH), including one at the law library, that I became mildly aware of Law Special Collections, though I didn’t get that position. However, in April, Randi emailed me. She was impressed with my oral history experience (I interned with Monticello’s Getting Word and contributed to UVA’s Oral History Initiative, Reflections, the previous summer) and asked if I was interested in breathing new life into UVA Law’s oral history program, starting with Hogshire’s request to interview former legal marshals. Flattered and thrilled, I joined the team.
Chapter 2: The Kneedler Investigation
May 2019—November 2019
While I finished my study abroad experience, Randi sent me a handful of preliminary research materials to familiarize myself with the era. However, my research really began when I returned home. During our initial meeting, Randi and I established two research questions: who were the legal marshals, and what did they do?
I requested a digital scan of the investigation, which our friends at Small Special Collections gladly fulfilled. That summer, I read through the Kneedler Investigation, the Cavalier Daily, the Charlottesville Daily Progress, an invaluable pictorial account of the May strike (May Days: Crisis in Confrontation), and one student’s thesis from 1977. I compiled every name I came across into an Excel spreadsheet, which I then color-coded based on if the individual was arrested, a law student, or a legal marshal (or, as I found, all three!).
We decided early on that we wanted to focus on third-year legal marshals so that we could present our research in the form of a physical exhibit at their 50th reunion in May 2020. We separated out the 3L legal marshals from the rest, created a new tab in the Excel sheet, and produced a running list of potential oral history interviewees.
Chapter 3: Is this thing on?
November 2019—March 2020
This stage of the process was critical for two reasons: 1). Meggan Cashwell joined our team, gifting us with her oral history wisdom and editing skills, and 2). It was time to fulfill Ted Hogshire’s wish and get out there and interview his colleagues.
To make this happen, we sent emails, made phone calls, and even sent physical letters to everyone on our legal marshal list describing the project and our goals. While we waited for responses, Meggan, Randi, and I worked to develop a list of interview questions that we could send to our interviewees in preparation for a formal interview. We also reached out to other oral history, public history, and storytelling organizations for advice on best practices and methodologies, including JMU’s oral history team,Monticello’s Getting Word,UVA’s Reflections,The Museum of Durham History, and WTJU 91.1. Over the next few weeks, responses started to trickle in. We heard back from Bob Olson, who was willing to do an interview but was currently in Aspen, Colorado for the winter. We heard from Dan Sullivan, who was in Boynton Beach, Florida. And we heard back from a handful of others who were still practicing law in the DC area. Despite the distance, we were determined to conduct as many in-person interviews as our timeline and budget would allow.
February 2020 was full of travel for the oral history team. Randi, Meggan, and Micheal Klepper (our videographer) journeyed from the snowy peaks of Aspen to the sandy shores of Boynton Beach. I stayed behind to finish up my schoolwork, but had the chance to travel to Winchester, Virginia to meet former legal marshal Gerald MacFarlane. In each case, our interviewees graciously welcomed us into their homes and offices and spoke with us for about an hour, reminiscing on “those days in May.” They shared their ruminations and reflections with us, and in return we helped to shake the dust off some of their memories through the presentation of our research.
As we neared the end of February, we only had a few interviews left to conduct. We were set to proceed with them after my spring break in early March, and then we would begin pulling together a physical exhibit to present to the Class of 1970 during their reunion in May.
Everything was going swimmingly until, of course, COVID-19 gobbled up our plans and the end of my fourth year like a greedy shark.
Chapter 4: You’re muted. Your microphone is muted!
March 2020—May 2020
I found out that I would not be going back to school near the end of spring break.
I returned to my apartment in Charlottesville and transitioned to classes online. The May Days Oral History Project continued. We met virtually via Microsoft Teams. We conducted three interviews on Zoom with four individuals (Ed Finch, Frank McDermott, H. Lane Kneedler, and Jim Carpenter). We continued to upload our interviews to otter.ai, a transcription service, and some of our staff set about correcting the transcripts for our collections.
Then, near the end of March, it became clear that everything was going to be canceled for the rest of the semester, including the Class of 1970 reunion.
We quickly determined that we still needed to present our research and decided on making an online exhibit in the form of a website. Inspired by his work on the SCOS Archive and Charlottesville Statues, we enlisted Loren Moulds to create a stellar site.
All that was left to do was figure out how we wanted the site to look, write the content, edit the content, finish the transcripts, find and create all media, cite all our sources, and put it together by the end of May. Piece of cake.
Chapter 5: Let’s build a website!
May 2020—June 2020
We knew we wanted a timeline element and a map. We envisioned a site which allowed users to jump around the timeline, as opposed to scrolling through in a linear way. As users clicked around to different points on the timeline or map, text and images would pop up to match the event. We split the work: Meggan would write the exhibit content, I would find pictures and plug it into StoryMap, and Loren would incorporate the exhibit into a larger website.
The preliminary sketches looked like this:
Once the content was complete, I created Prototype 1 of the exhibit:
Technically, it had everything we wanted (map, pictures, timeline), but it did not feel like a modern museum exhibit. We found ourselves frustrated with what this version of StoryMap couldn’t do. We could do better.
I did a little more research, and created Prototype 2:
This version was cleaner. It felt more like a website from this century. However, we were unable to incorporate audio clips into the text panel without linking to an outside video player. It was time for the third and final Prototype, which you can see in its full glory at the Marshaling May Days website.
Now that we settled on our format for the exhibit, it was time to edit the content. We had multiple edit sessions for each page of the site to ensure that every link worked, every photo was clear and cited properly, and that the text made sense. Multiple days spent editing content whilst in quarantine turned my notebook into a doodle-y mess…
…but made my roommate’s cat very content.
During the editing period, we enlisted a few library staffers and are incredibly thankful that they momentarily stepped away from their own projects to provide a fresh set of eyes to ours.
As we prepared to launch our site amid ongoing Black Lives Matter demonstrations, we decided to delay the site’s release in order to take a step back and reflect on the work we had completed. We thought about the privilege the legal marshals held never to fear for their lives or safety during the demonstrations they attended or during their brief interactions with police. We changed the ending of our exhibit to speak to the role that UVA student activists have played in demanding greater systemic change and demographic representation both in the College and in the law school.
Conclusion: The actual, satisfying, gratifying end (for now)
In the immediate present, we will host a “Zoom Reunion” for our interviewees on June 23rd and invite them to reminisce together. We anticipate the moment we can see them in person during the combined Class of 1970/1971 reunion in May 2021.
In the future, we will be expanding our oral history collection to include a diverse set of voices. We will incorporate relevant interviews into the May Days website. We also plan to include a photo gallery so users can thoroughly explore the law library’s collection of May Days photographs.
We shift now to the centennial anniversary of women at UVA Law, and are excited to prepare programming to mark the occasion.
To round out the legal marshal story, I will share one final reflection:
I’ve attended two of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Charlottesville so far and noticed a handful of students standing around the edges, wearing neon green hats. Upon further inspection, those hats read “National Lawyers’ Guild Legal Observer.” I learned that UVA Law has their own chapter of the NLG. Seeing those individuals patrol the perimeter of the demonstration, recording their observations into their phones and small notebooks, I felt as if I had stepped into my research.
Time ticks forward, generations age and begin anew, but the power of protest lives on.
Addie Patrick is the Library Coordinator with the UVA Law Library. She assists with Special Collections' many projects and with Circulation.
The American Society for Legal History has awarded the 2019 Mary L. Dudziak Digital Legal History Prize to the UVA Law Library’s Scottish Court of Session Digital Archive (SCOS). SCOS is a digital archive and research platform produced by the University of Virginia Law Library that makes accessible roughly 10,000 printed documents produced by Scotland’s supreme civil court in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The SCOS documents, formally known as Session Papers, tell a new and understudied story of life, law, and trade in the British Atlantic world. Cases before the Court regularly involved underrepresented groups, despite their apparent absence from available case indices, law reports, and, most notably, scholarship. As a result, the papers contain rich narratives of women, enslaved persons, and laborers who lived in the British Atlantic world during the era of the American Revolution. These are documents about people, often in their own words, circulating in these spaces as they protected their physical and intellectual property, conducted business, engaged in marriage or divorce, and established personal and economic connections that transcended political borders. By digitizing these materials, providing fully searchable page text, and describing them with rich metadata, SCOS presents new avenues for scholarly inquiry across many fields, particularly legal history.
In 2019, the project team based within Law Special Collections re-launched the SCOS website with enhanced tools for exploring the collection, including curated themes that align with current interests in the field of legal history and a full-text search function that displays snippets of relevant documents. This launch followed a complete redesign of the project database led by Loren Moulds and Jim Ambuske. The Law Library debuted this intellectual work and technological overhaul in July 2019 at a conference held by the International Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. Continued digitization, rich description, and new features are planned through 2020.
For scholars and students of legal history, these seemingly unlikely sources provide a new Atlantic perspective on America’s colonial and early national periods. The project responds to emergent trends in academic scholarship centered on Atlantic and global history, women’s history, slavery and the law, and the history of capitalism. Providing scholars with ready access to these court papers has revealed a fascinating world of women, men, and children and their relationship to the law.
The award was presented at the ASLH’s annual conference in November 2019.
The Summit is an interdisciplinary conference focused on the creation, management, and use of digital archives throughout Virginia. Building on the success of previous Summits in 2017 and 2018, this year’s gathering will focus on digital projects that address the legacies of slavery and freedom in Virginia. We welcome individuals from various fields—archivists, scholars, librarians, museum specialists, and technologists—to attend and join the conversation.
The 2019 Summit is a joint effort between the University of Virginia Law Library, the Library of Virginia, George Mason University, and the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington.
Just months before he died, Thomas Jefferson completed one of his last tasks in the project to establish the University of Virginia: the selection of the University’s first law professor. In an April 1826 letter recently acquired by the UVA Law Library, Jefferson wrote to members of the University’s Board of Visitors that John Tayloe Lomax had accepted the professorship of law and would commence law classes in July 1826.
Early this summer, the Law Library was alerted to the letter’s upcoming auction at Sotheby’s. Prior to its sale at Sotheby’s, the letter had once been part of the James S. Copley Library, a large private collection of American manuscripts, books, pamphlets, broadsides, and maps. As a circular letter to the Board of Visitors, Jefferson wrote, signed, and sent copies to every member of the Board. The New York Public Library holds James Madison’s copy in its collections; the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at UVA holds the copy sent to Joseph Carrington Cabell. Based on markings on the UVA Law Library’s newly acquired letter, we believe that this is the copy sent to James Breckenridge.
The Law School Opens
Jefferson’s letter is an important institutional record in its own right, but its significance becomes more apparent in the context of other sources from the same time period. Based on further research, we know that the letter marked the end of a prolonged search for the University’s first law professor, during which Jefferson and Madison had scrutinized the credentials, elocution, and politics of numerous candidates. Their stringent criteria—must be a devoted patriot, a native Virginian, a legal philosopher more than a “common-place” lawyer, and an effective public speaker—coupled with the difficulty of convincing established jurists to move to central Virginia, resulted in the law chair remaining unfilled when University classes began in 1825. Finally, in this April 1826 circular letter to members of the Board of Visitors, Jefferson announced Lomax’s hiring and the much-anticipated opening of the new Law School.
As with other aspects of UVA’s founding, the University’s historical relationship with slavery underlies the newly acquired letter and gives perspective to our understanding of the document. The opening of the Law School depended on the labor of enslaved people. Lomax’s own undergraduate education had been funded by his uncle, John Tayloe III, one of the largest slaveholders in Virginia at the time. Twenty-six male students, most from slaveholding families, formed Lomax’s first law class. Law lectures were held in Pavilion III, which had been built in large measure by enslaved laborers. As the letter joins other primary sources in UVA archives, it offers the opportunity, in line with ongoing initiatives at the University of Virginia, to investigate and tell a full story of the University’s founding, particularly the founding’s deep connections to slavery.
Teaching the Law
After assuming his professorship, Lomax implemented the law school’s early curriculum, which comprised two year-long sessions: legal procedures in the first, for those entering practice after one year’s preparation, and principles of law in the second. Eschewing Jefferson’s preference for Sir Edward Coke, Lomax taught Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries to first years for its “general map of the law,” followed by additional assigned texts. In the classroom, he “rigidly and critically” examined the students upon their readings “every other day.”
During annual examinations, students submitted written answers to a committee of University faculty for review. Below are actual Law School questions from 1829.
1. What are the ages at which male and females are competent to different legal purposes? Viz.
Males. To take oath of allegiance? When at years of discretion to marry? To choose a guardian? To make a testament of personal estate (by the common law? By Act of Assembly)? To be an executor? To aliene land?
Females. To be betrothed? To be entitled to dower? When at years of discretion to consent or disagree to marriage? To bequeath personal estate? To choose a guardian? To be an executrix? To dispose of herself and land?
2. What four requisites are necessary to make a tenancy by curtesy?
3. Of what two sorts is the remedy for false imprisonment? What are the four means which may be employed (at common law) for removing the injury? And which of them is now the most usual and effectual means in all manner of illegal confinement? What is the remedy by way of satisfaction of the injury?
The Jefferson letter will now be part of the Law Library’s Special Collections and Archives. Interested researchers should contact email@example.com.
 For examples of Jefferson’s and Madison’s correspondence regarding the law professorship search, see Jefferson to Breckenridge (“the appointment should not be given to a mere common-place lawyer”), 22 December 1824; Madison to Jefferson, 31 December 1824, 1 February 1825, and 4 August 1825. See also James Ambuske and Randall Flaherty, “Reading Law in the Early Republic: Legal Education in the Age of Jefferson,” in The Founding of Thomas Jefferson’s University, eds. John A. Ragosta, Peter S. Onuf, and Andrew J. O’Shaughnessy (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019).
 For a biography of Lomax and the financial support he received from his uncle to attend St. John’s College in Annapolis, see E. Lee Shepard, “John Tayloe Lomax,” in Legal Education in Virginia 1779-1979: A Biographical Approach, ed. W. Hamilton Bryson (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1982), 359; For John Tayloe III as one of the largest Virginia slaveholders in this time, see Richard S. Dunn, “Winney Grimshaw, a Virginia Slave, and Her Family,” in Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 9, no. 3 (2011): 495; For a list of the first law students, see A catalogue of the officers and students of the University of Virginia Second session, commencing February 1st, 1826 (Charlottesville: Chronicle Steam Book Printing House, 1880); For the role of enslaved laborers in the construction of the UVA lawn buildings, the African American community at the University, and the University’s connection to slavery more generally, see The President’s Commission on Slavery and the University, Report to President Teresa A. Sullivan, 2018.
 See Lomax’s 1829 outline of the Law School curriculum in “University Intelligence,” The Virginia Literary Museum and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts & Sciences &c., August 5, 1829.
Five years after the University of Virginia Law School began offering a “Women and the Law” course, which was supervised by two male professors in 1972, the Virginia Law Women (VLW) embarked on an extraordinary project. Six members of the group—Joan Kuriansky, Susan Buckingham Reilly, Diane Pitts, Jackie Blyn, Diane Smock, and Tracy Thompson—researched and wrote a legal handbook for women in Virginia titled Your Legal Rights as a Woman: A Handbook for Virginians (1977). Modeled on a handbook created by the North Carolina Law School Women, the text was, as the introduction stated, “written by women for women who want the law to work for them…Today we have many more rights than we had even five years ago. But unless we are aware of these rights we cannot exercise them” (VL141 .Y817 1977). The handbook, funded by the Virginia Commission on the Status of Women, was written in lay terms and explained Virginia laws concerning marriage, divorce, adoption, property rights, insurance, taxes, employment, social welfare programs such as Medicare and worker’s compensation, birth control, abortion, the criminal justice system, and gay rights. It also included a section on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) which had been approved by Congress in 1972 and was awaiting the requisite 38 states to ratify it into law at the time. In concert with consciousness-raising movements and projects across the country in that historical moment, the text made women conscious of the rights they were entitled to and the wrongs they suffered on account of their gender.
While the Virginia Law Women distributed the handbook locally to libraries, organizations, agencies, alumni, and faculty, the Virginia Commission on the Status of Women distributed the bulk of the copies across the state. In the VLW manuscript collection here at Law Special Collections, one folder brims with requests for the handbook at the time of its publication. Dozens of women who read about the handbook in the newspaper wrote and asked for copies. Several stated that they planned on using the handbook to help them through their divorces. One high schooler even asked for the handbook as research for a paper on the ERA. The group received requests from rape crisis centers, women’s prison projects, libraries, law schools, the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the ABA, the National Organization of Women (NOW), the Women’s Law Coalition, and Legal Aid. The combination of the handbook’s popularity and the significant changes in laws applicable to women in this period resulted in revised editions in 1979 and 1984. In the second and third editions, new sections were added to reflect changing laws, such as Title VII, Title IX, establishing credit, mental health, and domestic violence. In addition to the revised editions, the VLW taught a local continuing education course on the handbook in 1980. While the handbook did not address everything (the absence of a discussion about the legal implications of American racial inequality is noticeable), it served as a much-needed resource for women across the state.
The most revised and debated section of the handbook was the section on the ERA. The VLW originally planned to openly advocate for the ERA in the first edition, but they deleted that paragraph, deciding simply to describe the amendment and its potential impact because their funder, the Commission on the Status of Women, asked them to remain “politically neutral” (VL16. L425L c.1). The second edition was delayed because the Commission asked them to remove the entire section on the ERA. The VLW objected, citing the copyright in their name and declaring the issue of the ERA “vital to the women of Virginia” (RG 209-82). The Commission eventually withdrew their request and the subsequent editions not only included a section on the ERA but a section that was longer than the original. While the ERA was not originally a partisan issue (it has appeared in the platforms of both the Republican and Democratic parties), the Commission’s anxieties about it have made me wonder whether they knew the story of the woman in the photograph on the front cover of the first and second editions. The photograph was of British suffragette Mary Leigh in her Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) uniform. Leigh was famous for throwing a hatchet at Prime Minister Asquith in 1912, among other militant activities.
I’d like to end this post by reflecting on how these handbooks serve as a historical record of change. My own research focuses on women, politics, and property rights in eighteenth-century literature. I have spent more days than I can count poring over pamphlets about women’s legal rights, law books, and case documents from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. I inevitably came across the word “dower” in most of them. I never expected to come across that word in all three editions of Your Legal Rights as a Woman: A Handbook for Virginians. I was shocked that dower, a widow’s right to a life estate in one-third of her husband’s real property which came into being sometime around 1310, appeared in a legal handbook for women in the late twentieth century. Upon further research, I discovered that dower was not abolished in the state of Virginia until 1990. I discovered that the topic of my last blog post, the law of necessaries—an integral element of coverture—was the law in Virginia until 1983 when the state Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional under the 14th amendment. Finally, I discovered the word “coverture”—the common law doctrine that rendered husband and wife legally one person after marriage, which required the husband to act as representative for them both and which stripped the wife of many legal rights—still appears in the Virginia state code in two places. The first place is section 55-35, a statute that reflects the Married Women’s Act of 1877, which enabled women to hold and dispose of property as if they were single women and declared that the wife’s property was not liable for her husband’s debts.
The second place is section 55-38, a statute that states the wife’s right of entry into land cannot be barred by judgments during or after her husband’s lifetime. Ironically, the word “coverture” appears in statutes that recognize women as legal persons independent of their husbands. In fact, these sections are scheduled to be repealed in October 2019 and replaced by revised sections that continue to use the word “coverture.” This means that the word “coverture” has been a part of Virginia law since the colony’s founding over 400 years ago and still is to this day. To me at least as a scholar, the appearance of “coverture” in the state code raises the question of whether it was ever really abolished, or if it was simply reformed and remains part of our legal framework. Even though dower and coverture might seem like antiquated legal tools that we rightly dismissed long ago in the name of equity, they recently informed, and in the case of coverture may still inform, the way women are treated under the law in Virginia. These legal relics are one of the reasons why women would still find a handbook like this one useful today.
For more on the Virginia Law Women, see our collection (RG 209-82 and RG 209-2010) as well as the three handbooks (VL141 .Y817 1977, VL141 .Y817 1979, and VL141 .Y817 1984).
 Fern Riddell, “ Suffragettes, violence, and militancy,” British Library, 6 February 2018, https://www.bl.uk/votes-for-women/articles/suffragettes-violence-and-militancy.
 Marylynn Salmon, Women and the Law of Property in Early America (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1986), 144.
 See Va. Code Ann. § 55-37 (2012) and Mark S. Brennan, “The New Doctrine of Necessaries in Virginia,” University of Richmond Law Review 19 no. 2 (1985): 317–330.
In May 2018, UVA Law Special Collections purchased a small collection of photographs of UVA in the 1970s, including one contact sheet of Libel Show images, from an eBay vendor. When the collection arrived, we discovered that the seller had included three additional boxes of UVA-related negatives and photographs. Special Collections Assistant Sara Garcia-Pretelt has completed an initial inventory of this collection, and she describes here some of her most interesting discoveries.
The UVA Law Library’s newly acquired UVA/Charlottesville Photograph and Negatives Collection is comprised of images of the University of Virginia and the greater Charlottesville area during the late 1960s through the early 1970s. Among the photographs, contact sheets, and negatives found in this collection are scenes of student life, iconic Charlottesville landmarks, and important historic events.
The Law Libel Show: April 18, 1975
A long-standing UVA Law School tradition, the annual Libel show displays law students’ creativity and humor through skits and musical numbers. These photos were taken on April 18, 1975 for the production titled “A Sale of Two Cities or Salooney Tunes.” The law school student newspaper reported that the show “delighted crowds and embarrassed a few professors” (Virginia Law Weekly, 1975). Pictured below on the left is a student performing as “Charlie Blackbread” and pictured on the right is an unidentified law student actor.
Student Protests: May 5, 1970
The following photos were taken by various photographers during the May 1970 UVA student protests following the Kent State shootings and President Nixon’s announcement that US troops would be sent into Cambodia. A number of UVA Law students served as student marshals during these multi-day protests. Photographer Rip Payne captured scenes of the Virginia State Police preparing to address the student protests. Pictured are officers gathered outside of the Downtowner Motor Inn (later the Cavalier Inn) at Emmet and Ivy Roads and two officers with a police dog. On May 8, 1970, during a “honk for peace” student rally outside the Rotunda, the Virginia State Police enforced the 1968 Virginia riot act, charged the demonstration, and arrested 68 people. In his photograph titled “Lawn Arrest,” photographer Jim Carpenter documented police officers arresting a student on UVA grounds. Photographer John M. Atkins, Jr. captured in his photograph titled “Marshal,” a law student attempting to negotiate with a police officer about the arrest of another law student at the door of the Mayflower van, which the Virginia State Police used to transport arrestees to the Charlottesville police station. The band tied around the student’s arm signals his role as a legal marshal to keep the peace during the student protests.
UVA Grounds and Student Life ca. 1970
Also in this collection are images of iconic UVA landmarks such as the Corner and the Lawn in the 1970s. Pictured below is University Avenue just outside of Mincer’s Pipe Shop (now known as Mincer’s) where students and professors cross over onto Grounds. Today, the Corner’s crosswalks are infamous for the students that cross with no regard for oncoming cars as they rush to classes and meetings. Nearly 50 years later, these images still capture what it is like to live and study at UVA.
The Sports Scene
As the ‘Hoos advance to the Final Four for the first time since 1984, students today are hoping for redemption for Tony Bennett’s principled and impressive team. Of relevance in this photograph collection are images of UVA men’s basketball games in the Spring of 1975, such as this photograph featuring star players Mark Iavaroni and Wally Walker playing in U-Hall.
While most of this collection showcases student daily life, it also documents more significant moments like graduation. A symbolic UVA tradition, graduation on the Lawn is the culmination of students’ hard work over the last four years. Pictured below are families gathering on the Lawn by Old Cabell Hall to support their graduating students, while the Rotunda looms in the distance.
Unlike most of our digital collections, these images are presented under the fair use doctrine or with permission from the copyright holder, not under a Creative Commons license. Researchers can review the full collection of photographs and negatives at Law Special Collections on the third floor of the UVA Law Library.
In honor of Women’s History Month, this post by Kelly Fleming discusses the history of women’s legal rights as reflected in the 1828 Catalogue of the Library of the University of Virginia. Kelly is a PhD Candidate in the English Department at UVa, where her research focuses on women’s property rights and political participation in eighteenth-century British novels. She is assisting the Law Library with its 1828 Catalogue digitization project.
Of the 369 law titles in the 1828 Catalogue of the Library of the University of Virginia, only one was explicitly dedicated to the legal status of wives, Baron and Feme: A Treatise of Law and Equity, Concerning Husbands and Wives (U.K. .46 .B265 1738). In fact, it was the first known English legal treatise to focus solely on the laws concerning husbands and wives.[i] Penned by an anonymous author, Baron and Feme was first published in London in 1700 by John Walthoe. It was published again in 1719 by Walthoe and in 1738 by T. Waller, also in London. The university had acquired the 1738 edition for its first library. While the Catalogue entry for Baron and Feme dates the book to 1788, other nineteenth-century catalogues confirm that the original UVA library contained the 1738 edition.
Baron and Feme’s importance as a legal work stemmed from its discussion of the precedents that defined married women’s legal rights in the eighteenth century. In England, married women’s legal rights were defined in common law and equity courts, likely resulting in confusion about what women’s rights actually were. Books such as Baron and Feme consolidated such precedents and made them available for both men and women as a practical litigation guide. Since, like England, Virginia had both common law and chancery courts, Baron and Feme’s discussion of precedent would have informed the way UVA students and local lawyers understood marriage settlements and argued women’s property rights in court.[ii]
Baron and Feme took up the doctrine of coverture from the perspective of both men and women, but with substantially more attention to the legal ramifications of women marrying. A relic of the Norman Conquest, the legal fiction of coverture declared that, after marriage, man and wife were, legally, one person, with the husband acting as representative for both. After marriage, a woman became a feme covert, a “covered woman” wearing the shadow of her husband’s legal existence. Feme coverts were unable to convey property, sign a contract, or execute a will on their own. One of the first chapters describes the unique position feme coverts held in English (as well as early American) law by differentiating them from infants (women and men under the age of 21). Like feme coverts, infants were “disabled by the law,” meaning they were not recognized as persons under the law.[iii] The difference, the anonymous author argued, was as follows: infants were not yet considered persons under the law, but they could perform “any Act for [their] own Advantage,” including binding themselves in a contract.[iv]Feme coverts were not persons and could only legally bind themselves with their husband’s consent.
Complicating this comparison, the author did not distinguish between male and female infants despite the legal difficulties female infants would have encountered on account of their gender. While Sir William Blackstone may have famously called women the “favourites ”of the law, the privileges they received were restricted by their ability to negotiate patriarchal family dynamics.[v] In both England and colonial America, patriarchal hierarchies and codes of behavior structured family life. Female infants, despite their ability to contract, were likely to be controlled by a father or male family member who would frustrate any attempt to make legal decisions without his consent. In fact, even their ability to contract was up for question: English courts debated the legality of female infants consenting to a marriage settlement that barred dower in favor of a jointure.[vi] Moreover, daughters who became feme soles (unmarried women) and could own property when they came of age were unlikely to possess it because families typically planned on using the daughter’s inheritance as her marriage portion.[vii]
In the hopes of protecting women from cruel husbands, debauched husbands, and their husband’s creditors, English courts developed precedents over the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to counteract the potentially harmful effects of coverture. These precedents specified property rights for married women and addressed questions about their ability to legally consent during marriage. Baron and Feme dedicated entire chapters to these rights in an effort to help readers negotiate the complex obstacles of coverture, such as dowers, jointures, separate estates, and separate maintenances in case of abuse or divorce. Most importantly, the author included a chapter that specified what wives got out of coverture, “What Contracts of the Wife Shall Bind the Husband,” which rehearsed the arguments for and against the law of necessaries (the right a wife has to charge things to her husband’s account or in her husband’s name) in exhaustive detail. Regardless of the author’s thoughts on the law of necessaries, there were documented cases of women charging extravagant items to their husband’s accounts and getting away with it in England.[viii] My own work, which examines women’s property rights and political participation in eighteenth-century British novels, hopes to show how coverture went both ways. The legal tools necessary to mitigate, if not negotiate, patriarchal family dynamics were already in women’s hands.
The Law Library’s copy of Baron and Feme was a gift Gerard Banks Esq. gave to William Waller Hening, as the handwritten note on the title page documents. Hening, a prominent Virginia jurist, may have read Baron and Feme as research for his legal handbook, The New Virginia Justice(1795). The handbook includes a conveyancing appendix with a sample marriage settlement that created a separate estate for the wife, one of the recommended methods for alleviating the legal austerity of coverture.
[i] Lynne Greenberg, ed. Baron and Feme: A Treatise of Equity,
Concerning Husbands and Wives, The Early Modern Englishwoman: A
Facsimile Library of Essential Works (New York: Routledge, 2005), 3:xlviii.
[ii] Marylynn Salmon, Women and the
Law of Property in Early America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986),
Ainsworth, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation, was born on February 26, 1856 in Skullyville, Oklahoma, part of Indian Territory. At age fifteen, he enrolled in Roanoke College in Salem, VA. According to Ainsworth’s 1885 testimony before a Congressional committee on “The Condition of Certain Indian Tribes,” the Choctaw government sent a group of students each year to universities and supplied them with stipends. Ainsworth was such a student, and he attended Roanoke College on a scholarship funded through Choctaw coal mining. He graduated from Roanoke in June 1880 with the Orator’s Medal and then enrolled in the University of Virginia for the 1881–1882 term to study law.
Since a JD was not required to pass the bar at that time, this single session at UVA was enough for Ainsworth to pursue the career he already had chosen as a practicing lawyer. Prior to returning home to the Choctaw Nation, Ainsworth married Emily Thompson in Roanoke, and they eventually had three children, Ben P., Helen, and Agnes. Upon his return, Ainsworth was appointed draftsman for the Council of the Choctaw Nation by Chief Jack McCurtain. He then served as National Weigher at McAlester, in Indian Territory, for three years, before resigning in order to focus on his law practice. Following the death of the National Auditor, Ainsworth was appointed to that position, and then in 1887, he was reelected to fill the same office for a second term.
In 1889, Congress established the United States Court in Indian Territory. Ainsworth became a noted member of the bar of this Court, which held jurisdiction over civil cases between persons residing in Indian Territory and citizens, states, or territories of the United States. He remained active in the affairs of the Choctaw government until he died on August 20, 1922.