Slavery Apology by the University of Virginia Would Improve Racial Climate, University Official Says

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A University of Virginia administrator says an apology for slavery by the university would help heal the campus, which has been plagued recently by racial harassment incidents and attacks on students. Dr. M. Rick Turner, dean of UVA's Office of African-American Affairs, brought up the issue of an apology during his annual "State of African-American Affairs" address earlier this month. He said such a move by university officials would help the university continue to address campus-based racial harassment. The university has already convened a President's Commission on Diversity and Equity.

"I personally think that an apology from the university for the unpunished brutality and bullying of slaves and free Blacks during that awful time in our history at the University of Virginia would be a major step toward improving current race relations," Turner told a crowded audience at the Thomas Jefferson-designed UVA Rotunda building.

Asked if he envisioned playing a role at UVA similar to that played by University of Alabama law professor Alfred Brophy, who successfully lobbied that university to issue an apology over its ties to slavery, Turner says he's not in a position to bring the issue before the faculty senate, as Brophy was able to do at Alabama.

"This is something the university should deal with. It's about doing the right thing," Tumer says.

Though he doesn't have specific plans to raise the slavery apology issue in any particular venue, Turner says he'd like to see a campuswide and statewide debate take place that would prompt the school to issue an apology. He would also like to see students play a role in bringing attention to UVA's slavery history.

"I'm putting it in the hands of students," Turner says, and he means it literally. Five students in Turner's "Sociology of the African-American Community" class are working on a midterm project titled "Should the University Apologize for Slavery?" The students are writing individual papers and will complete a group presentation on the question. …


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