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UGA Will Build a Monument to Slaves Formerly Buried Underneath Baldwin Hall

The University of Georgia will build a memorial at Baldwin Hall to the slaves whose remains were discovered buried near the building during construction in 2015.

A black-owned quarry in Oglethorpe County will donate 35,000 pounds of granite for the memorial, the university announced today. UGA Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Michelle Cook is a member of the family—the Millie Long estate in Carlton—that owns the quarry.

“Our family is proud to contribute to this historic project, which will serve as permanent tribute to the memory of these individuals,” Cook said in a news release. “This project is particularly important to me because of my own family history in the Athens area, which dates back more than 150 years. It was an honor to work with the task force to design a memorial that will provide a tranquil, reflective place for our entire community.” 

The memorial will be built on the south side of Baldwin Hall, near Old Athens Cemetery, and will include a circular plaza, a fountain, a granite marker, two granite benches and vertical elements symbolizing ascension to the sky and drawing attention from the street, according to UGA.

Cook chaired an 18-member task force that President Jere Morehead appointed after the university was criticized by members of the local black community for its handling of the remains.

The remains of about 105 individuals were found during an expansion of Baldwin Hall three years ago, buried in a largely forgotten section of Athens’ first cemetery. DNA testing subsequently found that many of the remains likely were those of slaves.

The remains were moved to nearby Oconee Hill Cemetery, and a memorial was dedicated in March 2017. But leaders in Athens’ black community said they weren’t consulted on that decision about the final resting place of people who may have been their ancestors, and some wanted the remains moved to one of Athens’ historically African-American cemeteries.

None of the leading critics were included on the task force.