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Slavery and the UVA School of Law

Slavery and the University of Virginia School of Law is a project of the UVA Law Library that examines UVA Law’s historical connections to the institution of slavery from the Law School’s founding in 1819 to the outbreak of the Civil War. This work builds on the President’s Commmission on Slavery and the University with a particular focus on the inclusion of slavery in UVA’s legal curriculum. Illuminating how legal teaching and instruction at UVA applied to discussions of slavery in Virginia and the United States, the materials encompassed in this project will eventually include Virginia Law faculty papers, student notebooks, course catalogues, census records, and other primary records housed at UVA Law Library Special Collections and the UVA Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.

Virginia Law, as the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the United States, played a pivotal role in educating lawyers, legislators, and scholars who would shape the early American legal landscape. In turn, Law School faculty, students, and alumni participated in and influenced debates on the institution of slavery in Virginia. Indeed, the first five Law School faculty members were slaveholders. Our goal for this website is to offer resources that enhance understandings of and enable new research into the University’s historical relationship to slavery and the enslaved. This effort is ongoing and we invite you to contact us with questions, ideas, and possible avenues for further investigation.


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