Inclusive Institutional History: Reflections from Special Collections Intern Chloe Leon

On March 3rd, 1865, Union troops rode into Charlottesville, and in their wake many of Albemarle County’s 14,000 enslaved individuals declared themselves free. Since that fateful day, descendants of people enslaved in Charlottesville have been celebrating March 3rd as the anniversary of their ancestors’ liberation. In 2017, the Charlottesville City Council officially recognized March 3rd as an annual holiday and named it “Liberation and Freedom Day.” I had the pleasure of attending the Liberation Day celebrations this year and was treated to a reading of “My Serpentine,” a poem by Jayla Hart, and an extraordinary performance by the Gullah Geechee Ring Shouters.

After the events of Liberation Day, I have been thinking about the memorialization of Black history and the lasting impacts of uncovering and sharing enslaved people’s stories. In my role as an intern with the Law Library’s Special Collections Department, I have spent time sifting through newspaper articles, letters, and deeds trying to uncover more about the lives of people enslaved by the Duke family, who lived in the home known as Sunnyside just behind the Law School. I have read through Duke family documents housed in the Albert & Shirley Small Collections Library on Central Grounds and in Law Special Collections. I also visited the Albemarle County Circuit Courthouse to examine Duke family deeds and wills. Although the existence of enslaved people is evident in the built environment and the family histories of Charlottesville descendants, many of the historical documents about enslaved people were written by those who held them in bondage. Because the enslaved were barred from learning to read and write, their stories were told for them. As evidenced by accounts like R.T.W. Duke Jr’s Recollections, the enslaved were simply “servants” that were treated well and had no reason to seek their freedom. A substantial amount of the information gleaned about enslaved individuals is recovered through persistent and intentional searching because the enslaved were not portrayed holistically and authentically by most white authors.

Seeing members of DEC-UVA and the Gullah Geechee come together on March 3rd in veneration of their ancestors’ lives was beautiful, and I feel privileged to have born witness to the celebration. Liberation Day marks a time to hold space, to remember enslaved people’s resilience and resistance in the face of unimaginable violence and oppression.

The Gullah Geechee Ring Shouters perform in UVA’s Newcomb Hall, Liberation and Freedom Day, March 3, 2023.

Enslaved people’s history is American history, and only when it is embraced can we begin to reckon with the weight of slavery’s aftermaths. Divorcing slavery from the American landscape is impossible, especially at this University. Everything UVA is exists as a result of the forced labor of Black people. This institution owes its successes, its landscape, and its prominence to the lives of those that were enslaved here, and this acknowledgement has only come recently. Faculty and staff here have been doing invaluable work to learn about the University’s history of slavery, and I am proud to say I have worked alongside Addie Patrick (Library Coordinator) and Randi Flaherty (Head of Law Special Collections) on the Historical Landscape of North Grounds project.

My involvement with the project started in September 2022, after Addie and Randi were awarded a Jefferson Trust grant to hire an intern and fund interpretive signage about the Albemarle County Poor House and Charlottesville’s first barbecue grounds, sites situated along the Rivanna Trail behind the Law School. Originally, my work focused on researching the Poor House’s residents and the formerly enslaved people that worked to ensure the barbecues’ success, as well as how best to share those stories on our interpretive signs. One of the barbecue chefs, Caesar Young, was enslaved by the Duke family and continued to work for them after emancipation. He was well-known for his culinary talent alongside John Gilmore, another Black chef who lived and worked in the Georgetown neighborhood close to the Law School. Other chefs included Mandy and Juba Carter, enslaved by the Garth family of Birdwood, and Willis and Robert Fortune. They were all instrumental in the daily lives of prominent Charlottesville families, and the Historical Landscape of North Grounds project is working to bring them, along with other people enslaved on North Grounds, to the forefront. In order to continue this work in conversation with the descendants of the people whose lives we are studying, we have shifted our focus to connecting with the members of DEC-UVA. This semester, my work has been focused on assisting in outreach to the Descendants community, so the project can be a collaborative effort going forward.

Historical storytellers like the Gullah Geechee and organizations like DEC-UVA value Black history and are working to challenge racist, revisionist notions of enslavement. In the U.S., education about slavery is increasingly being sanitized to assuage white guilt, or it is dismissed as useless entirely. In the face of this censorship in education and the backlash against Africana Studies, publicizing the truth about slavery is even more pressing. Liberation and Freedom Day flies in the face of dominant, white supremacist narratives that claim slavery was not oppressive or violent and that we should feel nostalgic for the days of the antebellum South. The Historical Landscape of North Grounds project challenges the narrative that UVA’s North Grounds lacks relevant history and that what happened on this land is irrelevant to the University’s institutional history. Although UVA only purchased the property which became North Grounds in 1963, Law Special Collections recognizes the history of enslavement on North Grounds as part of UVA’s history. Though the University itself did not enslave the people that lived and labored on this land, the institution is still culpable. And it is of paramount importance that UVA continues to acknowledge this history and work with descendants, faculty, staff, and students to tell the full truth of enslavement.

This article was written by Chloe Leon who interned with the Historical Landscape of North Grounds Project during the 2022-2023 academic year. She graduated from the University of Virginia in 2023 with a B.A. in African American and African Studies.

Featured image: UVA Law alumni barbecue hosted at Sunnyside, circa 1900. Two Black chefs sit in the foreground of the image by the barbecue pit.

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Arthur J. Morris Law Library

Arthur J. Morris Law Library

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The Historical Landscape of North Grounds: Video Walking Tour

The Law School moved from Clark Hall to North Grounds in 1974, eleven years after UVA purchased the property to construct its JAG, Law, and Business schools.

But have you ever wondered what was here before the North Grounds complex? Law Special Collections has begun to research this question, and we are excited to announce the launch of our video walking tour which shares our research so far. Explore the website and watch the video here.

Color photograph of brick chimney in ruins.
Albemarle County’s first poor house (1806-1870) was located just behind today’s Law School. Ruins of the poor house superintendent’s house still stand alongside the Rivanna Trail.

Originally slated to be an in-person walking tour during Alumni Reunion, The Historical Landscape of North Grounds presents the multi-layered histories which make up the North Grounds landscape. To name a few, the property was once the site of Albemarle County’s first poor house, the home of the Duke Family and their enslaved laborers, and the location of Charlottesville’s first barbecue grounds.

Today, physical remnants of this landscape are made accessible by the Rivanna Trail. Archival material, archaeological research, and GIS mapping technologies provide greater insight into these histories as well as into the lives of the people who lived and labored here.

This project exemplifies Law Special Collections’ ongoing commitment to preserve and share the institutional history of the Law School, which includes the history of the landscape where the Law School now resides. This summer, we are eager to welcome to the project Jack MacLeod, UVA rising fourth year, who will continue this research as an intern with UVA’s Institute for Public History.

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Addie Patrick

Addie Patrick

Addie Patrick is the Curatorial Specialist with the UVA Law Library.

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The UVA Law Library Celebrates Two Centennial Anniversaries

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and the 100th anniversary of women’s matriculation at the law school.

To commemorate these two watershed moments in our history, the law library is proud to present the installation of two exhibits which are on display on the 1st and 2nd floors of the library.

100 Years of Coeducation provides a timeline of female history, struggle, activism, and triumph at UVA Law. The exhibit is composed of eight banners, two display cases with artifacts from the law library’s special collections department, and a rolling slideshow of 100 UVA alumnae in the lobby.

100 Years of Coeducation will be on display through the end of September.

Three exhibit banners displayed in a hallway
Three of six banners in the ABA’s traveling exhibit “100 Years After the 19th Amendment.”

The American Bar Association’s traveling exhibit, 100 Years After the 19th Amendment: Their Legacy, and Our Future, will be on display on the 2nd floor of the library from September 1st through 14th.

In conjunction with these exhibits, we asked our female colleagues at the law library to share their voting stories with us. Here are some of their memories:

“Personally, I have to think about (remember….) my first voting experience. More strikingly I remember bringing my two daughters to vote with me in 2016. I think they were most impressed with the sticker afterwards, but I like to think the greater importance of the experience sank in just a little as well.”

Randi Flaherty
Special Collections Librarian

“I grew up in a small town and when I went to vote in my first election, I was known by all the folks working the election. I was a bit intimidated by the ballot machine and worried that I would have to ask for help (why that worried me, I do not know). That evening, per family tradition, we went up to the courthouse to watch them write the vote tallies up on a big board as the counts came in from each precinct.” 

Leslie Ashbrook
Research Librarian

“Growing up, I always loved accompanying my parents to the polls. I took my duty as a kid voter very seriously, less due to my political leanings and more because of the sticker you get afterwards. I even talked to my friends about voting, going so far as to ask for whom they voted (a bold and perhaps inappropriate move). My first legitimate voting experience was in 2008 when Barack Obama won the first time. I don’t recall going to the polls, but I do remember staying up late and watching President Obama’s acceptance speech. As a then junior history major in college, I remember being honored to witness such a significant moment for our nation.”

Meggan Cashwell
Postdoctoral Research Associate

“It’s been a while since my first time voting, so I don’t remember very much! Here’s what I do remember: The first election after my eighteenth birthday was a presidential primary. I’d registered as an independent, but I was excited about being able to vote, so I went in and cast a ballot on some local issues. The poll workers, two older women, were very encouraging and helped make it a positive experience.”

Kate Boudouris
Research, Instruction, and Outreach Librarian

“What I remember about my first voting experience: Sophomore year in college I sat with my absentee ballot for the presidential election and remembered a high school conversation in which a [male] classmate questioned — “is that what you think or is that just what you hear your parents say?” At my dorm room desk I filled in a bubble, wondering if I would have chosen differently in high school and why.”  

Kristin Glover
Research Librarian

“In 2008, I was in 5th grade. My parents used to get the Washington Post, and in the “Kid’s Post” section there was a blank map of the electoral college that readers were encouraged to color in with red or blue as the results came in that evening. I tried to stay up to complete the map, but in the end, I had to go to bed before I could finish it. In 2012, when I was in middle school, election day was a holiday. My orchestra class took the opportunity to fundraise in the school lobby. I wonder now if voters really appreciated amateur string players attempting Pachelbel’s Canon at 6am as they waited in line. I was finally eligible to vote in the 2016 primaries. I remember being nervous for when the poll worker asked for my address, as if I would suddenly forget it. I was incredibly excited to vote after many years of participating in the civic revelry surrounding the occasion.”

Addie Patrick
Special Collections Assistant

Come visit us to learn more about UVA Law’s history of coeducation and about women’s struggle for the vote (and to pick up a free bookmark!).

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Addie Patrick

Addie Patrick

Addie Patrick is the Curatorial Specialist with the UVA Law Library.

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The Making of Marshaling May Days

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?

To get started, Randi pointed me to the “Papers of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Student Affairs Pertaining to the Student Strike of 1970 [manuscript] 1970” (the “Kneedler Investigation”). Long story short, then-Assistant Dean of the Law School H. Lane Kneedler was charged with conducting an investigation on the facts and key players of the May 1970 strike. During the summer months of 1970, he completed interviews with undergraduate and law students and compiled heaps of legal precedent. At the request of President Edgar Shannon, a final report was never produced.

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)

June 2020

Despite the May Days madness, the law library made time to celebrate their graduating interns: Maeve Harris (bottom left), Addie Patrick (bottom center), Sarah Houston (not pictured), and Sara Garcia-Pretelt (not pictured).

The website is now live, and we are, again, so grateful for all the individuals who helped to make it happen, including our interviewees, our text editors, and our friends and family that did not shy away from providing their own critiques of the site.

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:

National Lawyers’ Guild Legal Observers. Wikimedia Commons.

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.

A legal marshal monitors a crowd of UVA students at a rally on May 6, 1970. David M. Skinner, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia.

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Addie Patrick

Addie Patrick

Addie Patrick is the Curatorial Specialist with the UVA Law Library.

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