Slave Burial Ground, c. 1840s, University of Alabama. A conversation with Dr. Hilary Green, Associate Professor of History and Dr. Beth Harris.
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Slave burial ground, University of Alabama
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Why were Jack and William Boysey’s names included on the Slave Burial Ground marker?
They were the only enslaved laborers who ever worked at the university.
They were the only enslaved people whose names appear in the records of the university.
We know that their graves are within the cemetery, and they are documented as being owned by university president, Basil Manly, Sr.
They built the former biology building located next to the apology marker.
Which of the following details known about Jack and William Boysey is included in the text on the marker?
They were owned by the university’s second president, Basil Manly, Sr.
They were among the enslaved people whose labor contributed to the building and operation of the university.
The last names Rudolph and Brown were the names of Jack and William Boysey’s respective owners prior to Basil Manly, Sr.
Records indicate that Jack and William Boysey did not assume these last names during their lifetimes.
Which statement best describes the history of the cemetery?
A colonial-era cemetery existed in the area prior to the founding of the university and was occasionally used by the university out of convenience.
The cemetery was originally established to house anyone affiliated with the university, including students, paid employees and their family members, as well as enslaved laborers.
The cemetery was created and expanded by necessity, with new plots added and organized in rows as individuals died. The result was a strictly chronological order to the graves.
Originally created after the death of a student, the growing cemetery was intentionally segregated. Plots for white people were marked and separated from the largely unmarked graves of enslaved people.
Why was it important that the university erected the apology marker in 2004?
It signaled a recognition of the history of enslavement at the university, identifying at least two of the many enslaved laborers working on the campus by name and acknowledging their humanity, contributions, and legacy.
It named specific slaveholders from the university who were buried in the cemetery, making visible details of history that have been overlooked or minimized for decades.
Because contemporary buildings were erected atop the former cemetery and grave markers for enslaved laborers were no longer visible.
It honored a request from the descendants of the white faculty member whose family plot sits nearby. These descendants are major donors to the university today.
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Enslaved people built and worked at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa from its founding until the end of the United States Civil War. These enslaved laborers were rented or owned by faculty and members of the university’s leadership. When they died, many of them were buried in a campus cemetery in unmarked graves.
Today, modern buildings and parking lots have been built on the site of this cemetery. A 2004 marker at the edge of the former cemetery identifies two enslaved people, Jack and William Boysey, who worked on the campus and were owned by the university president. The plaque offers an apology from the university for its role in the institution of slavery.