History and Art History
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Mason History Students Participate in “Universities Studying Slavery” Conference

Uva universities studying slavery conference

Two Mason history students, Ayman Fatima and Alexis Bracey, recently participated in an important conference at the University of Virginia. The conference was entitled, “Universities, Slavery, Public Memory, & The Built Landscape Symposium October 18-21, 2017.” This was the latest in a series of conferences connected with the “University Studying Slavery” project. The purpose of this project is to enable universities to work together as they address the complicated legacies of slavery in modern American society.

Ayman and Alexis attended the conference as delegates from George Mason University. They are two members of a team of students and faculty at Mason who have undertaken with the “Enslaved Children of George Mason University” research project, which explores the largely untold story of George Mason's enslaved people. This team of researchers have built a website (https://ecgm.omeka.net/) to present their ongoing research.

Ayman and Alexis attended several panels while at the conference. They listened to scholars who shared their research on the legal foundations of slavery in North America, which originated mainly in 17th century Virginia. Alexis and Ayman noted that at that time George Mason IV was a burgess in the Virginia House of Burgesses and a Justice of the Peace in Fairfax County. They remarked, “Our university’s namesake, as well as the Mason family, played a large role in shaping the institution of slavery as it emerged in what was to become the United States of America.” They also attended sessions that explored how university communities should best commemorate enslaved individuals. They plan to use this information as they and other members of their research team engage the George Mason University community in a broader conversation about these issues, as well as about contemporary issues surrounding race and inequality in higher education. They hope that these conversations will result in a Fairfax campus memorial to the enslaved people owned by George Mason IV.

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