The memorial’s timeline stretches from the first arrival of enslaved Africans in Virginia in 1619 to 1889, the year that marks the death of Isabella Gibbons. A formerly enslaved woman, Isabella Gibbons’ biography plays an important role in multiple features of the memorial. The sixty-nine entries on the timeline speak to the extraordinary and the ordinary in the lives of the enslaved. When possible, the timeline includes the names of the enslaved, it amplifies their courage and attempts at self-determination, reminds readers of the violence against women that was so pervasive in this landscape, and timeline highlights the agency of the black community in pressing toward self-determination.


First written mention of enslaved Africans in Virginia.


Virginia enacts slave codes that formalize race-based slavery in American colonial law.


Jefferson writes the Declaration of Independence proclaiming that “All Men Are Created Equal.” In his lifetime he holds over 600 African Americans in human bondage.


Virginia holds more enslaved people than any other state. 1817: Ten enslaved people begin to clear the land that will become UVA.


During UVA construction, enslaved people dig foundations, make bricks, quarry stone, do roofing, carpentry, tinwork and other tasks.


UVA temporarily rents enslaved people from a seventy-mile radius. This separates families and often forces the enslaved to walk long distances.


Willis, Warner, Gilbert, Ceasar, Abraham, Sam, and other enslaved people live and work at UVA.


Sam, a carpenter, leads a group of enslaved laborers constructing roofing for Pavilion VII and other buildings.


Gilbert, working for a UVA contractor, runs away. The university overseer captures and returns him.


Roda, working at the university for less than two months, becomes gravely ill and dies. She may have been buried in the university’s cemetery for the enslaved.


Sam works for two years at the university as a blacksmith.


William Green works as a blacksmith at the UVA construction site. Dick and Ned work as carpenters.


Willis, Sam, John, Reubin, Nelson, Jefferson, Ben, Barrett, Lewis, Tom, Bob, Dick, Alfred, Moses, Randal, George, Sharper, and other enslaved men mold and fire bricks.


Fleming runs away. He is captured a mile from the university and returned.


Willis runs away. The UVA overseer pursues and captures him in Louisa County.


Carpenter Sam, an enslaved man, supervises the work of three other carpenters: Davey, William, and “young Sam,” the last possibly his son.


Tom runs away. He is captured fifty miles from Charlottesville and jailed in Louisa County before the UVA overseer returns him to work at the university.


UVA opens for its first session with 123 white male students. 90-150 enslaved people also live on Grounds.


An average of over one hundred enslaved people work annually as blacksmiths, bricklayers, cooks, carpenters, painters, seamstresses, janitors, and domestics.


Jim and Moses cut stone at the UVA quarry, Primus works in the blacksmith’s shop, and Sebra cuts stone for construction of the Anatomical Theatre.


In October, rioting students beat a professor’s enslaved servant.


Faculty seek stricter control of the enslaved, calling for creation of a licensing system that requires African Americans waiting upon students on Grounds to carry badges.


Nelson cares for horses at a stable, works as a gardener, chops wood, and makes bricks.


Thrimston Hern, “a tolerable good stone cutter,” does stone work at UVA, including completing the Rotunda steps.


Several professors purchase enslaved people from Jefferson’s estate after his death in 1826. Among the enslaved is Lucy Cottrell, who becomes a cook in Pavilion IV.


Prudence cleans bloody linens from the Anatomical Theatre. Humphrey and Peyton Skipwith work as stonemasons.


John Edwards chops wood at the university. Cato excavates bedrock at foundation sites.


Disturbed in the night "by a noise made by negroes passing thro the University," a professor proposes that the school institute a regular slave patrol.


Sebra trims and shapes quarry stone to enclose the University Cemetery. Alfred lays bricks and whitewashes buildings.


147 enslaved African Americans live and work at the university. 66 people are held by professors, 57 others by hotelkeepers, the remaining 24 by UVA.


Three professors purchase Lewis Commodore at public auction for the school’s use. They are later reimbursed and he becomes UVA property.


In the wake of Nat Turner’s slave uprising, the Virginia legislature debates the fate of slavery, but they choose to uphold the slave system.


Students fire pistols on the Lawn, then violently attack Lewis Commodore.


Two students savagely beat an enslaved man named Fielding.


Lewis, charged with maintaining the Anatomical Theatre, cleans up after cadaver dissections and is forced to rob graves.


143 enslaved African Americans live and work at the university. 55 people are held by professors, 67 by hotelkeepers, and 21 by UVA.


Abraham, Shelton, and Kenny lay bricks at the university.


Isaac and Nelson work as stone-masons. Washington, Absalom, and Ben lay bricks.


Micajah assists a stone mason in cutting and trimming rock while Kennedy repairs paved surfaces by laying new bricks.


Flora has an epileptic seizure after stillbirth. Her mistress writes, "it may be some time before she can do anything if she is ever of any service again.”


Abraham, Lewis Commodore, Charles, Dick, Lewis, Margaret, Homer, James, Abram, Johnson, Thad, Cassandra, and other enslaved people live and work at UVA.


Three students attack a twelve-year-old enslaved girl in a field near UVA. The students are expelled.


93 enslaved African Americans live and work at the University. 42 are held by professors, 37 by hotelkeepers, and 14 by UVA.


A young man named Charles whitewashes dormitory rooms and cleans lecture rooms.


Isabella Gibbons, a cook who works in a Pavilion kitchen, marries William Gibbons, a butler enslaved by another UVA professor. They teach themselves to read and write.


Dick, Primus, Ryland, Jackson, John, Billy, and other enslaved people live and work at UVA.


Lucy suffers from "rheumatism aggravated by her sleeping apartment...the brick floor being always liable to dampness.”


An enslaved eleven-year-old girl is beaten unconscious by a UVA student. Claiming his right to discipline any slave, he suffers no consequences.


Nelson, Henry, Norman, George, Bob, William, Garland, and other enslaved people live and work at UVA.


Abolitionist John Brown tries to seize a federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, as part of a plan to lead an armed slave uprising.


UVA alumnus remembers Lewis Commodore, charged with maintaining Rotunda chemical hearth for decades, as known for his “smart, practical knowledge of chemistry.”


104 enslaved African Americans live and work at the university. 55 are held by professors, 36 by hotelkeepers, 11 by the Proctor, and 2 by UVA.


Parnil, Willis, Ned, and Albert work as carpenters at the university.


Virginia secedes from the Union, invoking the federal government’s “oppression of the slaveholding states.”


Approximately 14,000 enslaved African Americans, over half the population, live in Albemarle County when the Civil War starts. A half million enslaved people reside in Virginia.


Enslaved people flee to Union-held Fort Monroe in eastern Virginia. Their wartime flight to Union forces across the South paves the way for Lincoln’s emancipation policy.


Joshua and Charlotte work as attendants in the university infirmary.


Nearly 1,000 enslaved local African Americans are forced by Confederate authorities to do work such as building fortifications.


Charlottesville Baptist Church’s black congregants, including those enslaved at UVA, successfully petition white church leaders to establish their own church.


More than 250 African American men born in Albemarle County but dispersed by sale, flight, and migration across the South, enlist in the Union army.


Aaron chops wood at the university.


On March 3, Charlottesville and UVA officials surrender the town to Union forces.
On April 9, Confederate forces in Virginia surrender at Appomattox.


Local African Americans celebrate both March 3 and April 9 as freedom days.


With general emancipation underway and the Civil War over, UVA in September begins to pay wages to those formerly enslaved.


Isabella Gibbons teaches at a freedmen’s school in Charlottesville with 42 students. One month later the school has grown to 63 students. It will become the Jefferson School.


Baptist minister William Gibbons, formerly enslaved at UVA, dies in Washington, D.C. He is buried in Charlottesville.



Isabella Gibbons, formerly enslaved at UVA, dies in Charlottesville and is buried alongside William Gibbons.

1619 1899