A rendering of the plan for the burying ground


Burying ground

The university announced in January that the trustees have given approval for “the creation of a permanent memorial to honor the enslaved persons burying ground on a parcel of land that became our current campus.” Construction began in February and is expected to last approximately one year.

The plans for preservation of the burying ground, located just south of Fountain Hall, and the final design come after several years of study, reflection, and consultation with members of the descendant community. In January, the university hosted a small, private ceremony with descendants to mark the milestone and consecrate the ground.

University-sponsored research published in 2019 revealed that a site on the southeastern side of Westhampton Lake was once a burying ground for those enslaved by former landowners and that remains were discovered and desecrated by the university during construction projects in the early to mid-20th century. In response, the university formed a committee to identify appropriate means of memorializing the ground and the enslaved people who lived and labored on this land prior to the university’s arrival.

The university retained Burt Pinnock from Baskervill architects to develop, evolve, and finalize a design based on several years of listening and work. As part of the research, the university and Baskervill commissioned archaeological site and ground-penetrating radar surveys of the burying ground, which supported a final design that minimizes ground disturbance and preserves the site’s historical topography.