New book explores the history of slavery at UVA

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- The University of Virginia hosted a book launch event on Thursday for a new book on the history and legacy of slavery at the school.

The book, "Educated in Tyranny: Slavery at Thomas Jefferson’s University," is co-edited by UVA architectural history professor Louis Nelson and former UVA art history professor Maurie McInnis and published by the University of Virginia Press.

Nelson, who has spent the past six years researching slavery at UVA, said the book is about reframing the university's history.

"We often talk about the university as the architecture of democracy, and I think we actually do so rightly,” said Nelson. “But we also have to remember that that architecture of democracy was situated in a landscape of slavery."

The book is a collection of essays that grew out Nelson's work at the school and a digital history project McInnis co-founded with history professor Kirt von Daacke called Jefferson's University: The Early Life.

"Dozens of students are working every day, poring through the university's archives, and from that, we're able to piece together the little threads that enable us to tell this much richer story of the history of enslavement here,” McInnis said.

Mcinnis, now the executive vice president and provost at the University of Texas, says the timing of the book is also significant.

"In 1619, the first Africans arrived on the shores of Virginia,” she said. “In 1819, the University of Virginia is established, and so we stand here today, 400 and 200 years removed from these events, but with a nation that has still not achieved full equality."

The book's essays cover topics including pro-slavery thought and violence. Nelson says the history is painful, but he says the book isn't an attack on UVA. It's a commitment to truth-telling.

"This volume really is that absolute commitment to begin to replace the mythologies which we've loved about the University of Virginia with the historical realities of how this place actually functioned," Nelson said.

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