Turning Grief for a Hidden Past Into a Healing Space

Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at the University of Virginia. Photograph by Sanjay Suchak for The New York Times.

In a recent New York Times piece, Holland Cotter explains how the citizens of Charlottesville Virginia have been grappling with the city's statues, and the histories the monuments honor, for years. Cotter discusses the impact of the range of monuments in this historic city-- paying special attention to the 'Memorial to Enslaved Laborers.' Erected in 2016, this monument honors, and in some cases identifies, the enslaved peoples who contributed to the University of Virginia's legacy. The memorial has a special added touch from New York-based artist Eto Otitigbe. Otitigbe, who exhibited with AGBS in 2016, engraved an image of the eyes of Isabella Gibbons, an enslaved woman at the University of Virginia, into the monument.

"For generations, and with few exceptions, Americans have tended to ignore their old political monuments, tune them out as neutral features of the civic landscape, neither innocent, nor guilty; just there. The Charlottesville incident changed that. Suddenly, we saw certain images for what they were: ideological weapons, dirty bombs of history. The police killing of George Floyd in May opened our eyes still wider." -Holland Cotter