University of Virginia to Apologize for Using Slaves to Build School in 1800s

The University of Virginia's board marked founder Thomas Jefferson's birthday with an apology for the school's use of slave labor between 1819 and 1865.

The board of visitors unanimously passed an apology resolution on April 13, the 264th anniversary of Jefferson's birth, but did not announce the action until Tuesday.

The measure was inspired by the Virginia Legislature, which passed a resolution in February expressing its "profound regret" for the state's role in slavery. Legislatures in Maryland and North Carolina approved similar slavery apologies this year, and another measure is under consideration in Alabama.

Slaves in Virginia helped build some of the first buildings at U.Va., which opened in 1825, and the university continued to use slave labor for four decades after that.

"The board expresses its particular regret for the employment of enslaved persons in these years," the resolution reads. It says "the notion of involuntary servitude is repugnant and incompatible with the ideals upon which this university was founded."

The resolution declares that the board is recommitting itself to the principle of equality.

"It is very important to us ... not just to look back but recognize the commitment of the administration that all types of people are treated fairly for now and in the future," said university Rector Thomas F. Farrell II.

Nine percent of the university's undergraduate students are black, according to university spokeswoman Carol Wood.