Story at a glance

  • A bill passed by the Virginia House on Thursday requires five public colleges and universities to offer scholarships or economic development programs to the descendants of slaves who labored on the campuses.
  • The measure calls for Longwood University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, the Virginia Military Institute and the College of William and Mary — schools built before 1865 — to identify all the enslaved people, to the extent possible, who worked on the grounds.
  • The measure would take effect in the 2022-23 academic year if it’s passed in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Five public colleges and universities in Virginia may have to pay reparations to the descendants of slaves who helped build and run the institutions under a bill that was passed by the Virginia House on Thursday. 

The measure calls for Longwood University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, the Virginia Military Institute and the College of William and Mary — schools built before 1865 —  to identify all the enslaved people who labored on their properties, to the extent possible. The bill was approved by the Democratic-led House of Delegates Thursday on a 61-39 vote. 


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The schools would then be required to offer full four-year scholarships or economic development programs to descendants of slaves. The project would allow descendants to attend any of the five institutions. 

The measure would take effect in the 2022-23 academic year if it’s passed in the Democratic-controlled Senate. It’s not clear how many scholarships would be offered as it isn’t known how many slaves worked on most of the college campuses. 

“HB 1980 is a small but important step to acknowledge and address that the foundational success of five universities was based on enslaved labor,” Del. David A. Reid (D-Loudoun), the lawmaker pushing for the measure, told Changing America. “I am proud HB 1980 has passed the House, and I hope that it will be sent to the governor’s desk for approval so that we can begin to address the multigenerational impact of slavery here in Virginia.” 

The bill does not allow for the colleges to use state funds or tuition revenue to pay for the “Enslaved Ancestors College Access Scholarship and Memorial Program,” which means the project will require private fundraising or endowment revenue to support it. 

The effort comes amid a racial reckoning in the U.S. that has prompted many institutions to remove Confederate monuments and symbols from campuses, rename buildings and memorialize those who had been enslaved. 


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Published on Feb 05, 2021