Banned Books Week 2021

It’s Banned Books Week! Traditionally observed the last week in September, Banned Books Week is a time when the American Library Association, the Association of University Presses, and other organizations draw attention to past and present attempts to censor books.

Banned Books Week also highlights the ALA’s annual list of the top 10 most challenged books. When we say that these books were “challenged,” we mean that someone tried to have them removed or restricted in a library or school. Common reasons for challenges in 2020 included LGBTQIA+ content, perceived anti-police sentiment, and issues having to do with race.

You’ll find several of the ten most challenged books of 2020 in the Law Library’s collection. They include:

For librarians in schools and public libraries, responding to challenges can be a complicated part of the job—one that implicates professional values like intellectual freedom and social responsibility. Thus, Banned Books Week is more than a chance to speak out against censorship; it’s also an opportunity to reflect on the values that animate our daily work.

For those of us in the legal field, Banned Books Week is an occasion to celebrate free speech, and perhaps to consider its benefits, limitations, and potential for change. Here at UVA, we’re lucky to work with scholars who have written thoughtfully on these topics. For example:

In honor of Banned Books Week, we’ve created a pop-up display highlighting some of the works mentioned in this post. We encourage you to take a look and enjoy your freedom to read!

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Kate Boudouris

Research, Instruction & Outreach Librarian, Arthur J. Morris Law Library

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Fifty Years Later: An Archival Look at the 1971 Virginia Constitution

Introduction

Law Special Collections recently installed Revising the Virginia Constitution, 1968-1971 in the lobby of the Law Library. In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the 1971 Virginia Constitution, the exhibitprovides a retrospective look at Virginia’s Commission on Constitutional Revision through the work of UVA Law professor and constitutional law expert A. E. Dick Howard (’61). Howard served as executive director of the Commission, an appointment he received from Commission chair and former Virginia governor Albertis Harrison Jr. in February 1968. The materials in the exhibit are curated from Howard’s personal papers, which he donated to Law Special Collections in 1981.  

Forming the Commission

In 1968, Law Professor A. E. Dick Howard (’61) began work as executive director of the Virginia Commission on Constitutional Revision, charged with overhauling Virginia’s supreme legal document. In the wake of massive resistance to school integration, Howard and the Commission set out to revise the 1902 Virginia Constitution, which disenfranchised many Black Virginians and explicitly outlawed racial integration in state schools.  

Howard undertook the formidable task of administering the work of the Commission, which consisted of ten members and a chair. The commissioners were highly visible legal and political figures, chosen for their stature in the Commonwealth. They included, among others, Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell Jr., civil rights attorney Oliver Hill, former UVA president and Virginia governor Colgate Darden, and Law School Dean Hardy Dillard (’27). 

Pictured are several members of the Commission in Williamsburg, 1969: (left to right) Davis Paschall, Ted Dalton, Alexander Harman Jr., Colgate Darden Jr., Lewis Powell Jr., Albert Bryan Jr., Oliver Hill, and Hardy Dillard.

The Revision Process

Following a lengthy study of recent constitutional revisions in other states, Howard proposed a plan of operation and a timetable for the work of the Commission. He divided the Commission into five subcommittees, each of which was headed by a counsel and series of advisors. Counsels were chosen from faculty at Virginia’s four law schools—including UVA Law Professor Peter Low—and from prominent attorneys in private practice, like Jack Spain JrThe Commission tasked the five subcommittees with recommending revisions to assigned focus areas: Bill of Rights, Franchise, Apportionment, and Education; Taxation and Finance; Legislature and Judiciary; Executive and Corporations; and Local Government.  

Here at the Law School, the Virginia Law Weekly covered the stages of the constitutional revision process, with particular emphasis on the involvement of UVA Law professors and students. During the summer of 1968, the Commission hired eighteen law students as research associates to assist the five subcommittees. Twelve of the eighteen associates were from UVA Law. Frances Farmer, UVA Law Librarian and first female Law faculty member, was appointed as Librarian to the Commission at Howard’s request.

Commission meetings took place at various locations across the state, including Charlottesville. Commission members and counsels are pictured here on the steps of Clark Hall, home of the UVA Law School at the time. The eighteen-person group of Commissioners and counsels included eight UVA Law alums.

The Commission submitted its final report to Governor Mills Godwin and the General Assembly in January 1969. Howard acted as special counsel to the Special Session of the General Assembly charged with amending the constitution in light of the Commission’s proposals. Virginia law required that amendments to the existing constitution be ratified by two sessions of the General Assembly and then submitted to the people in the form of referenda. As special counsel, Howard interpreted the Commission proposals to the Assembly, attended committee meetings, met individually with Assembly members, provided constitutional advice, and finally re-wrote each proposed revision in terms acceptable to both houses of the General Assembly.  

Building Support for Ratification

Former governor and Commission chair Albertis Harrison Jr. presents the final report to Governor Mills Godwin Jr., January 1969.

After Howard and the Committee submitted their revisions to the General Assembly in 1969, Howard set off on a tour around Virginia to encourage public support for the new constitution.  

Four proposals related to amending Virginia’s Constitution were put on the ballot for Virginians to vote upon in November 1970: passage of the main body of the constitution, the potential legalization of lotteries by the Assembly, and two matters pertaining to bond financing. Howard’s speaking engagements created a space for citizens to ask questions and express concerns about the four proposals. 

Howard is pictured here at an open forum in Richmond, Virginia in 1970.

Voters passed the revised constitution with a 72% majority. The other provisions passed by 63% or higher. The new constitution, ratified July 1, 1971, remains in force today and includes a non-discrimination clause as well as guaranteed state and local funding for public education, among other provisions.  

Professor Howard Revisits His Collection

Howard views items on display from his collection.

On September 20, 2021, Professor Howard—who still teaches constitutional law—stopped by the library to view materials from his collections. Howard assisted in the curatorial process, loaning two items including a testimonial given to him by Governor Ralph Northam on the fiftieth anniversary of ratification (on display) as well as a certificate from members of the Commission (featured here). We asked Professor Howard why he donated the materials to the UVA Law Library. He said he felt strongly that the records should be preserved. Howard also noted that much of the work of constitutional revision was completed here since the Law School’s faculty, students, and librarians were involved in the process from the beginning. Most important, Howard was confident library staff would take great care of the materials: “I had so much respect for the work of this law library that I knew my colleagues here would do a first-class job of collecting and curating and making the collection available.” 

We invite patrons to explore Revising the Virginia Constitution, 1968-1971, which will remain on display through December 2021.  

On January 11, 1969, during the final meeting of the Commission, the commissioners presented Howard with this certificate in recognition of his outstanding leadership and many contributions. Each commissioner signed the certificate, which now hangs in Howard’s office.

This post is indebted to the work of former archivist Marsha Trimble, who processed Howard’s papers in 1981 and wrote the original description, portions of which are featured here and in the exhibit.

Featured image: Dick Howard and Meggan Cashwell discuss the exhibit “Revising the Virginia Constitution, 1968-1971.” 20 September 2021.

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Addie Patrick

Addie Patrick is the Library Coordinator with the UVA Law Library. She assists with Special Collections' many projects and with Circulation.

Meggan Cashwell

Meggan Cashwell is a postdoctoral research associate in legal history for UVA Law Special Collections. She is spearheading the library’s forthcoming edited history of legal education at the Law School (UVA Press).

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The Library’s Entryway Exhibit: Revisited

The Special Collections team is excited to announce the completed renovation of the Law Library’s Entryway Exhibit, which originally premiered in March 2014. The initial iteration as well as the current exhibit were designed by Gropen.

Since the exhibit’s opening, Special Collections has expanded its rare materials, research goals, and understanding of the Law School’s complex history, particularly as it relates to issues of slavery, discrimination, and diversity. The result is a new timeline (or “reader rail”), additional hanging images mounted on the wall, and a redesigned introduction panel which matches the University’s updated brand.

Color photograph of introductory panel to the entryway exhibit

The exhibit is divided between the themes “The Landscape” and “The Law,” inviting patrons to consider significant moments in the Law School’s past within the framework of its physical spaces. Classes were originally taught in the law professor’s residence on the Lawn. The school then moved several times before relocating to North Grounds in 1974. In addition, the exhibit covers Virginia Law’s evolving curriculum and major shifts in student life and culture.

Related Special Collections projects informed the bulk of the exhibit’s revisions, including ongoing research into how professors taught the laws of slavery during the antebellum period, explorations into the historical landscape of North Grounds, and the Law School curricular history book project headed by Postdoctoral Fellow Meggan Cashwell.

While the entryway guides the Law School’s students, faculty, and staff into the library and its resources, we encourage patrons to pause and explore the updated exhibit, and with it, UVA Law’s 200-year history.

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Addie Patrick

Addie Patrick is the Library Coordinator with the UVA Law Library. She assists with Special Collections' many projects and with Circulation.

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Updates and Reminders for All Students

The Law Library staff is excited to welcome all UVA law students to Grounds this fall. Whether you’re new in town or returning from summer break, we look forward to getting to know you better and helping you take advantage of everything the library has to offer. To get you started, here are a few updates and reminders about our services.

Hours

The Law Library is now open from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. every day of the week.

Research Assistance

If you need help finding a source or planning a research project, our reference librarians will be happy to assist you. One of us will be at the second-floor Reference Desk from 9am to 5pm on weekdays. You can also get in touch with us via email at RefDesk@law.virginia.edu or use our website to schedule a Zoom consultation.

Getting Materials from Other UVA Libraries

The University has developed a system that allows you to request books from other UVA libraries using the Virgo catalog (https://search.lib.virginia.edu/). To request a book, find it in the Virgo catalog, click on the “Request Item” button, and choose “Law” as your Preferred Pickup Location. (If you’re unable to pick up the book in person, a form is available for making alternate arrangements.) Note that you’ll need to be logged in to Virgo to make a request.

Requesting Scans

Last year’s scanning service was so popular that we’ve decided to keep it! If you would like us scan an article or book chapter for you, please request the scan through Virgo. On the Virgo record for the item you need, click on the “Request a Scan” button and fill out the form that appears.

Online Study Aids

We offer various study aids and other resources to help you learn. For example, the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction, known as CALI, offers a collection of interactive legal tutorials. You can register for CALI using the activation code on LawWeb. And you can sign up for free online Bluebook access using this form.

Renew Your Subscriptions!

Finally, a friendly reminder for returning students to renew your online subscriptions: Once each year, you will need to reactivate your NYTimes.com account and get a fresh registration key for the Bluebook Online. (In order to renew your NYTimes.com account, you must be on-grounds or using a VPN.) If you’re having trouble accessing WSJ.com, please visit the registration page (also while on-grounds) and click “Register or Renew.” First-time registrants can sign up for NYTimes.com, WSJ.com, WashingtonPost.com, and more by logging into LawWeb and following the links on the “Other Student Services” tab.

As you embark on a new academic year, remember that the library is here to help you! Please don’t hesitate to contact us at refdesk@law.virginia.edu or to stop by and ask us a question.

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Kate Boudouris

Research, Instruction & Outreach Librarian, Arthur J. Morris Law Library

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The Law Library Welcomes New Students

To new students arriving for orientation: Welcome! The Law Library staff looks forward to working with you throughout your time at UVA. From personalized research consultations to exam-time grilled cheese breaks, the library offers services to make your time here more enriching, efficient, and enjoyable. This post describes some key resources to help you hit the ground running this academic year.

Lexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg Law Passwords

The Law Library provides subscriptions to Lexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg Law, three major legal research databases. You’ll find sign-up instructions and registration codes on LawWeb (linked under “Other Student Services” >> “Library”). If you have questions or don’t find an assigned code listed there, please contact us at refdesk@law.virginia.edu

Newspaper Subscriptions

As a UVA law student, you’ll receive free subscriptions to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. Sign up on LawWeb under “Other Student Services” >> “News Access.”

Reserve Materials

Some materials in our collection have been placed “on reserve,” which means that they can be checked out for three hours at a time. Study guides, some textbooks, and popular legal treatises are likely to be held on reserve so that more students have an opportunity to use them. (We only place course materials on reserve if your professor specifically asks us to do so.) You can find these materials in the Klaus Reading Room near the first-floor circulation desk.

LR&W Help

Not sure how to tackle your Legal Research & Writing assignment? The Law Library is here to help! Each section of LR&W has a dedicated librarian—or “Library Liaison”—to help students get comfortable with legal research methods. Once classes start, your LR&W instructor will provide more information about meeting with a Library Liaison. For additional research tips, check out this guide to legal research for law students.

Guide to Student Services

As your studies progress, we hope that you’ll find the Law Library to be a valuable partner in your academic efforts. You can learn more about the library’s offerings in this guide to student services. And remember, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at refdesk@law.virginia.edu!

Once again, a warm welcome to all incoming students!

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Kate Boudouris

Research, Instruction & Outreach Librarian, Arthur J. Morris Law Library

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Kent Olson Set to Retire

Kent Olson will retire in August after more than 35 years at the Law School, and we’re taking the opportunity to reflect on his many contributions to our community. But where to begin? Since Kent dedicated his career to research services, we decided it would be fitting to do some research of our own—about Kent’s scholarly publications, his appearances in student publications, and all the ways in which UVA Law  faculty have acknowledged him in their publications. Here’s what we found.

Kent Olson, undated (CC BY Image courtesy of University of Virginia Law Library)

As you may already know, Kent is a star of the legal research field. He has twice won the American Association of Law Libraries’ Joseph L. Andrews Bibliographic Award for making “a significant contribution to legal bibliographical literature”—first in 2000 for Legal Information: How to Find It, How to Use It, and again in 2010 for Principles of Legal Research, which is now in its third edition.[i] Kent worked on ten editions of Legal Research in a Nutshell, starting in 1992 with co-author (and Nutshell creator) Morris Cohen and continuing through the just-published fourteenth edition. He has published various articles and book reviews over the years, including one that led Bob Berring, another eminent legal bibliographer, to call Kent “the author of my all time favorite book review.” (Berring was referring to Kent’s review of a volume of the federal reporter, “Book Review of 750 F.2d.”)

But Kent’s professional service extends well beyond his publications. He launched the Law School’s Advanced Legal Research course in 1993, and as evidenced in the annals of the Virginia Law Weekly, he has been liked and admired by class after class of law students. Kent racked up an impressive streak of VLW “thumbs ups” ratings from 2002 to 2004, beginning on April 26, 2002, when the editors recounted how, “[o]n the last day of Advanced Legal Research, he went through the entire class (100 plus), row by row, and named every single person without using notes or a facebook.” VLW later recognized Kent “for showing Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in Advanced Legal Research” (January 23, 2004) and giving gifts to the students with the highest grades in Advanced Legal Research (April 23, 2004).

In addition to Kent’s human touch as an instructor, VLR praised Kent’s fearless stewardship of the library space:

[I]n the library, brave Librarian Kent Olson responded to the distress call of a woman who noticed that a garbage can in the law library was rustling. Olson stuck his arm in the can, retrieved a real live bat, and disposed of it appropriately.

And students appreciated Kent’s sense of fun. A 1994 issue of VLW presented this vignette of Kent playing softball:

During a recent game at Copeley, Kent Olson (the captain of the Law Library team) was seen behaving remarkably like someone who actually enjoys the game. He took a full-fledged slide into home plate, ensuring jeans with orange clay stains for years to come, and was heard cheering his teammates, including Anne H., the Westlaw rep., with slogans like: “Come on, Annie! Give ’em a password!”

Kent’s accomplishments as a softball teammate, an author, and an instructor would be enough to constitute an exemplary career–but there’s more. Kent has provided decades of top-tier service the UVA Law faculty. His keen grasp of scholars’ research needs was on display in a 1999 issue of VLW:

If vodka is made from potatoes, why don’t the Irish make vodka? . . . “This is the kind of question that professors come up with when they go to lunch together,” explained Kent Olson, Director of Reference Research and Instruction.

Wry comments aside, Kent’s approach to faculty research has been marked by a commitment to service and remarkable skill as a researcher. Here’s how he described his philosophy:

“We don’t want [faculty members] to ever have to enter the library; we want them to be able to sit at their desks and wish for things.”

And what have those faculty members who “wished for things” said about Kent? They’ve praised his “superb,” “generous,” and “exceptional” research assistance. They’ve told readers how Kent “helped track down an elusive quotation,” “bent rules and beat bushes to find what I needed,” and “answer[ed] even the [questions] I didn’t know enough to think of.” And they’ve expressed the extent to which they “utterly depend” on his “skill and patience.”

The Law Library staff will miss Kent’s skill and patience, not to mention his sense of humor, his Halloween costumes, and his fantastic blueberry muffins. But after more than 35 years of scholarship, instruction, research assistance, and mentoring, we know that Kent has more than earned his retirement. We wish him all the best in his coming adventures.

[i] Co-authored with Aaron Kirschenfeld and Ingrid Mattson.

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Kate Boudouris

Research, Instruction & Outreach Librarian, Arthur J. Morris Law Library

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The Historical Landscape of North Grounds: Video Walking Tour

The Law School moved from Clark Hall to North Grounds in 1974, eleven years after UVA purchased the property to construct its JAG, Law, and Business schools.

But have you ever wondered what was here before the North Grounds complex? Law Special Collections has begun to research this question, and we are excited to announce the launch of our video walking tour which shares our research so far. Explore the website and watch the video here.

Color photograph of brick chimney in ruins.
Albemarle County’s first poor house (1806-1870) was located just behind today’s Law School. Ruins of the poor house superintendent’s house still stand alongside the Rivanna Trail.

Originally slated to be an in-person walking tour during Alumni Reunion, The Historical Landscape of North Grounds presents the multi-layered histories which make up the North Grounds landscape. To name a few, the property was once the site of Albemarle County’s first poor house, the home of the Duke Family and their enslaved laborers, and the location of Charlottesville’s first barbecue grounds.

Today, physical remnants of this landscape are made accessible by the Rivanna Trail. Archival material, archaeological research, and GIS mapping technologies provide greater insight into these histories as well as into the lives of the people who lived and labored here.

This project exemplifies Law Special Collections’ ongoing commitment to preserve and share the institutional history of the Law School, which includes the history of the landscape where the Law School now resides. This summer, we are eager to welcome to the project Jack MacLeod, UVA rising fourth year, who will continue this research as an intern with UVA’s Institute for Public History.

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Addie Patrick

Addie Patrick is the Library Coordinator with the UVA Law Library. She assists with Special Collections' many projects and with Circulation.

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Summer in the Law Library: FAQs

To all of our students, congratulations on completing a challenging academic year! Remember that as you turn to bar prep or your summer job, the Law Library is still here to support you. Read on for answers to some of your top questions about using the Law Library over the summer.

I’m staying in Charlottesville to get ready for the bar exam. Can I study in the Law Library?

Yes! We’ll be open this summer for bar studiers, RAs, and any other law students who need a place to work. From May 15 through July 27, our hours will be:

Monday to Thursday: 8am-8pm
Friday: 8am-5pm
Saturday: Noon-5pm

(As often happens in the summer, there may be days with a little extra noise due to facilities upgrades, but we’ll post signs to warn you.)

Can I use Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg over the summer?

Each service’s summer use policy is summarized below.

Lexis

The Lexis Summer Access program starts when classes end and continues through August. During that time, you can use your Lexis ID at any law firm, government agency, court, or other legal position. If you’re graduating, you’ll have access for six months after graduation.

Bloomberg

You can use your Bloomberg Law account over the summer in any capacity you’d like. You’ll also have access for six months after graduation.

Westlaw

You can use your Westlaw ID (including Practical Law) for non-commercial research, but you can’t use it in situations where you’re billing a client. Acceptable uses include:

  • Summer coursework
  • Research assistant assignments
  • Law Review or Journal research
  • Moot Court research
  • Non-Profit work
  • Clinical work
  • Externship sponsored by the school

After you graduate, you can maintain your Westlaw access for six months by opting into the “Grad Elite” program. The program provides 60 hours of access per month and is limited to non-commercial uses. There are two registration options: (1) Go to www.lawschool.tr.com, log in, and use the drop-down menu by your name to go to Grad Elite Status; or (2) use this Grad Elite link.

How can I get books from the Law Library over the summer?

As always, students are welcome to stop by the library and check out books. If you’re out of town or prefer to spend less time in the Law Library, you have a few options:

1. Ask us to retrieve the book and hold it at circulation for you. Please use the ‘Request item’ button in Virgo and choose ‘Law’ as your Preferred Pickup Location. You’ll receive an email when the book is available for pickup. (Note: You’ll need to be logged in to Virgo to make a request.)

2. Ask us to make a scan for you. We’ll be happy to scan chapters, articles, or pages from any Law Library book. To request a scan, use the “Request a Scan” button in the Virgo catalog. You can use the same procedure to request scans from other UVA libraries. (Note: If you don’t see a “Request a Scan” button, that means your book is available to read on HathiTrust.)

3. Ask us to send you a book. If you’re out of town, we’ll be glad to mail any books that you need (except for reference and reserve books). For full books from any UVA Library (including Law), please use this form and UVA Libraries staff will contact you about mailing arrangements or other options for accessing the book.

I’m studying for the bar exam and I need a break. Help!

Your bar preparation will be more successful if you make time to exercise, see friends, and take care of yourself—we promise. At the Law Library, we have lots of materials to help you recharge, including board games, DVDsmindfulness resources, and our newest acquisition, outdoor games. Stop by the circulation desk to check out Cornhole, Kubb, Ladder Toss, Giant Jenga, or another game, and forget about the bar for a few hours. Just be sure to stay 6 feet apart while you play!

I’m looking for something to read over the summer. Any ideas?

The common read display.

Visit the reserve room to check out our collection of non-law books! We’re especially excited about our display of the books recommended by UVA Law affinity groups to help build understanding about diversity. We also provide electronic access to many of these recommendations.

How can I stay in touch with the Law Library over the summer?

As always, you can send research questions to RefDesk@law.virginia.edu. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @UVALawLibrary for the latest news!

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Kate Boudouris

Research, Instruction & Outreach Librarian, Arthur J. Morris Law Library

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Collaborative Storytelling: “50 Years of BLSA” Online Exhibit Now Live

Today marks the official launch of the Law Library’s online exhibit “50 Years of BLSA,” the product of a months-long collaboration between Law Special Collections and the Black Law Students Association at UVA Law. Explore the exhibit here.

On October 16, 1970, UVA Law’s Black students founded a chapter of the Black American Law Students Association (BALSA, now BLSA) to advocate for issues of racial justice. The founding priorities included increasing Black student enrollment, hiring Black faculty, and creating an engaged and welcoming environment at UVA Law.

The online exhibit provides a deep dive into BLSA’s founding and five decades of student activism, service, and community at the Law School. The site’s five sections (History, Service, Black Excellence, Reflections, and Gallery) share both the Law Library’s archival collections and BLSA’s resources.

Forming Partnerships with Student Groups

As BLSA’s 50th anniversary approached, Law Special Collections and the BLSA executive board agreed to collaborate on a project to exhibit BLSA’s history. We met frequently with Allison Burns ’22 (BLSA President) and Genesis Moore ’23 (BLSA Historian) to determine the content and layout of the site, and to exchange resources. We are thankful for their time and input.

Our collaboration with BLSA is Special Collections’ first direct collaboration with a student organization, and we are proud to launch what we hope to be a rich resource for those interested in the Law School’s history.

We look forward to future collaborations with other student groups to highlight the many histories and experiences that make up UVA Law.

Header image: BALSA Executive Board, 1971-1972.

From left to right, front row: Arthur C. McFarland ’73, Stephanie Valentine Carpenter ’73, and Charles E. Walker ’73.

Back row, Jerry Williams ’73, Leroy W. Bannister ’73, Bobby Vassar ’72, and John W. Scott, Jr. ’73, pictured in 1971, Records of the Virginia Law Weekly.

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Addie Patrick

Addie Patrick is the Library Coordinator with the UVA Law Library. She assists with Special Collections' many projects and with Circulation.

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Negotiating Law and Order on Grounds

Faculty Chairmen and the Lives of Enslaved People at the University of Virginia

To mark the launch of Slavery & the University of Virginia School of Law, a digital initiative exploring the law school’s historical connections to slavery, we offer the following post that recounts interactions between UVA Law faculty in their role as faculty chairmen with enslaved workers on Grounds. At the University of Virginia, precious little exists of first-person slave narratives that might tell us more about the enslaved community here and how they shaped, experienced, and felt about their lives. Even so, the accounts available from the faculty chairmen’s recordings can offer important instances of enslaved individuals’ ingenuity, bravery, and self-determination. We invite patrons to explore related content at slavery.law.virginia.edu.

 

A ‘Firm and Inflexible Execution of the Laws’: Policing Students and Enslaved Workers

In 1827, the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia set into motion several enactments, one of which established a faculty chairman “charged with superintending the execution of all laws made for its government.” The faculty chairman was elected annually by the faculty and paid $500. In 1831, the position was appointed by the Board of Visitors. This role was one of great responsibility and prestige. As chief executive officer, the faculty chairman was tasked with presiding over all the faculty in addition to enforcing order on Grounds. When a serious disciplinary matter arose, it was the duty of the faculty chairman to try the individual(s) involved before the faculty. For less serious offenses, the faculty chairman could determine the consequence on his own.[1] By 1831, the enactments stipulated that the faculty chairman also keep a journal of offenses and reprimands and present them before the Board of Visitors at their meetings. This same requirement was accompanied by the remark that the University expected “a mild and paternal, yet firm and inflexible execution of the laws.”[2]

Two law professors served as faculty chairman during the antebellum period: John Tayloe Lomax (1827-1828, 1830) and John A.G. Davis (1835-1837, 1839-1840).[3] Adjudicating offenses occurring on Grounds—everything from tardiness to outright violence—produced telling interactions between these professors and enslaved workers whose lives overlapped with faculty, students, hotelkeepers, and others. A faculty chairman’s approach to policing on-Grounds offenses effectively relied as much on his knowledge of the rules laid out in the enactments as it did his own personal judgement of how enslaved workers and students should conduct themselves. Collectively, the incidents adjudicated by the faculty chairmen reveal that the presence of enslaved laborers on Grounds shaped and sometimes challenged how faculty chairmen enforced order.

 

Defining Order Amidst Resistance and Rebellion

While many of the disciplinary guidelines laid out in the enactments involved students and the authority of professors to police and reprimand them when necessary, the enactments applied to all occupants of the University precincts.[4]

Portrait of John Tayloe Lomax
As the first professor of law at the University of Virginia, John Tayloe Lomax adopted Thomas Jefferson’s view that the study of law should include an examination of government and politics within a broad conceptual framework. He served as faculty chairman from 1827-1828 and 1830. Lomax descended from the Tayloes, a prominent slave-holding Virginia family. According to the 1850 U.S. census, Lomax owned 7 enslaved persons in 1850.

The words “slave” or “servant” are never mentioned specifically in the enactments, but enslaved people were regular participants in the chairman’s adjudication duties. Scattered throughout the chairman’s journals are references to acts of resistance and rebellion by enslaved workers on Grounds. Entries also provide at least some sense of the lives of enslaved laborers, including the work they performed; the recreational activities they participated in; the duties they carried out on University property; and, often, illustrations of the abuse and mistreatment they experienced at the hands of University citizens.

Albert was one such enslaved individual who appeared in the 1830-1831 faculty chairman minutes when law professor John Tayloe Lomax served in that position. Albert labored under the employ of Mrs. Sarah Carter Gray, the hotelkeeper for Hotel E in the Academical Village. According to Lomax’s writings, an unidentified enslaved laborer accused Albert of cheating him in a game of cards. It was the unnamed enslaved laborer who appealed to Lomax directly and informed him that the money he had been cheated of belonged to his enslaver, Fendall Carr (the reasons for him having this money remain unknown). Lomax noted that the enslaved laborer was not permitted to appeal to the faculty chairman and therefore “did not deserve, an interference.” Yet, Lomax responded to his request out of a desire to know if gambling was a common occurrence. University enactments in this period banned cards and games of chance from the University precincts.[5]  Lomax issued an inquiry, but the only evidence that surfaced was a lone playing card in Albert’s room. Albert denied the accusation and another enslaved laborer came to his defense, further weakening Lomax’s investigation.[6]

Hotel E visualization
A rendering of Hotel E where Albert labored under the oversight of hotelkeeper Mrs. Sarah Carter Gray. Courtesy JUEL Project

In Albert’s case, Lomax was trying to enforce a particular kind of order, one that reflected his views of the law and allowed him to exercise authority over enslaved people. While making note that the enslaved had no legal right to appeal to him, the circumstances prompted Lomax to accept the request and investigate it out of a desire to prevent riotous activity. Ultimately, Lomax had to determine whether or not students were involved in this gambling ring or if the participation of enslaved persons in a prohibited activity affected student life in some way. Thus, enslaved laborers helped define order on Grounds as well as how far the authority of the faculty chairman could extend. Everyone participated in the adjudication of the offense—even those without legal rights. Albert had the final say by making sure the charge in this instance held no weight in the end, although he was later caught gambling once again and that time the incident was turned over to the proctor.[7]

 

Drawing Upon the Laws of Slavery and Pro-slavery Ideology

Portrait of John A. G. Davis
John Anthony Gardner Davis became the Law School’s second professor at the young age of twenty-eight and served as faculty chairman from 1835-1837 and again in 1839-1840. Davis lectured to his students that slavery was too engrained in the country’s fabric to be eradicated and that the enslaved people in Virginia were better off enslaved than free. While a professor at the Law School, Davis reported in the 1830 U.S. Federal Census that he owned 17 enslaved persons.

Laws of slavery were a part of the legal theories and philosophies law professors taught in the classroom. Student notebooks reveal that such lectures tended to focus on property, debt, and the circumstances under which an enslaved person might be inherited or seized for debt liability. Nonetheless, questions of the morality of enslavement as well as slave discipline were incorporated into these lessons given the curriculum’s heavy emphasis on legal theory, particularly the theories of William Blackstone. In an 1839 lecture, John A.G. Davis agreed with Blackstone that slavery could not be reconciled with natural law. He believed the greater danger, however, would be to free enslaved people. Maintaining order, he argued, entailed keeping Black persons enslaved but approaching them with a level of humanity:

“All that our circumstances have, hitherto permitted, we have done, as we have made that relation as just and mild as is compatible with the public safety, and with the existence and preservation of that kind of prosperity, and doubt now that these people, are more comfortable and happy than the lower classes of people, in any other country.”[8]

While law professors largely operated within the abstract in the classroom, their position as faculty chairmen provided forums for the real-world application of broader philosophical ideas and pro-slavery ideology. In one of his journal entries dated December 9, 1835, Davis mentions being summoned by Mrs. Carter Gray of Hotel E regarding an incident in which a student boarder assaulted an enslaved worker in the hotel. Gray requested Davis’ response to an infraction that had occurred at breakfast that morning when one of her boarders, W.W. Harris, struck William, her Black enslaved servant. Gray claimed that Harris had conducted himself with “great impropriety” when William was “impertinent to him.” Davis felt that William had not acted “to such a degree however as to excuse [Harris’] rudeness & violence.” This was no act of humanity on the part of Davis towards an enslaved person, William. Rather, Davis sought to protect a power balance on campus, one that Harris had jeopardized by exercising physical discipline towards an enslaved person. Davis believed that Harris, the student, had disrespected Gray’s position as a hotelkeeper by responding that he would strike her servant “whenever it pleased him.” Even as a student, Harris felt he could behave as master over an enslaved person on Grounds by reprimanding William with violence. Davis presented the matter before the faculty and Harris was suspended for a week. Upon his return, he was ordered to move to another hotel.[9]

The everyday context in which Davis operated as faculty chairman was one in which the lives of enslaved people intertwined with the white and free Black community.[10] The incidents Davis recorded in his journal show enslaved laborers navigating various spaces and relationships on their own terms. Davis responded to a variety of claims, including an act as mundane as enslaved servants providing “expensive suppers” to students.[11]  In another instance, Davis found himself inspecting a basket belonging to an enslaved person who was smuggling rum and whiskey for himself and students.[12] As faculty chairman, Davis was tasked with enforcing the rules and keeping order. The reality of life on Grounds meant that enslaved people were consequential players in the community he policed, and that norms associated with slavery were part of the order he sought to maintain.

Even though the spaces and buildings of the Academical Village were designed to hide the day-to-day work of enslaved people from the academic life of the Lawn, the experiences of the enslaved as described in the faculty chairman journals reveal how intertwined the landscapes of enslavement, education, and student life were on Grounds.  Enslaved servants cleaned students’ quarters, ensured they made it to class on time, prepared food, and performed countless other functions for the University. While enslaved people likely benefitted from illicit acts such as smuggling rum, which students no doubt used to their advantage, they also received more severe consequences when caught.

 

Conclusion

In disciplinary cases involving the enslaved, Professors Lomax and Davis brought their legal training to bear upon extrajudicial matters at the University. But these faculty chairmen were also active participants in upholding a second, unspoken mandate to maintain the subjugation of enslaved individuals. Thus, order at the University of Virginia often entailed justice that did not contravene the logics of chattel slavery, a dynamic illustrated in the aforementioned cases.

 

[1] Enactments relating to the Constitution and Government of the University of Virginia: 1827,” Chapter 1, Section 1, Subsection 1, Jefferson’s University the early life, http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/enactments/1827/enactments-1827.

[2] “Enactments relating to the Constitution and Government of the University of Virginia: 1831,” Chapter 1, Section 1, Subsection 10, Jefferson’s University … the early life, http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/enactments/1831/enactments-1831.

[3] “Journals of the Chairman of the Faculty, 1827-1867,” Jefferson’s University … the early life, http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/resources#_ftn1.

[4] “Enactments relating to the Constitution and Government of the University of Virginia: 1827,” Jefferson’s University … the early life, http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/enactments/1827/enactments-1827; “Enactments relating to the Constitution and Government of the University of Virginia: 1831,” Jefferson’s University … the early life, http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/enactments/1831/enactments-1831.

[5] “[E]very student who shall within the precincts introduce, keep or use, any spirituous or vinous liquors, or any cards, dice or other implements of gaming, shall be subject to the like punishment,” in “Enactments relating to the Constitution and Government of the University of Virginia: 1827,” Chapter 4, Section 1, Subsection 5, Jefferson’s University … the early life, http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/enactments/1827/enactments-1827. The ban on cards and games of chance is expanded in later Enactments, seemingly to all inhabitants of a Hotel: “Nor shall [a Hotelkeeper] permit his tenement, or any part of it, to be used for any other than the purposes of a boarding-house. Nor shall he suffer any game of chance to be played,” in “Enactments relating to the Constitution and Government of the University of Virginia: 1831,” Chapter 1, Section 4, Subsection 7, Jefferson’s University … the early life, http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/enactments/1831/enactments-1831.

[6] John Tayloe Lomax, Journals of the Chairman of the Faculty for Session 7b, 1830-1831, 11 February 1831, Jefferson’s University … the early life, http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/chairman-journal/Sessions/session-007b.

[7] John Tayloe Lomax, Journals of the Chairman of the Faculty for Session 7b, 1830-1831, 30 March 1831, Jefferson’s University … the early life, http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/chairman-journal/Sessions/session-007b.

[8] G.W. Blatterman, “Law Notes,” 1838-1839, pg. 67, Arthur J. Morris Law Library Special Collections.

[9] “Faculty Minutes, Session 12, 1835-1836,” 10 December 1835, Jefferson’s University … the early life, http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/faculty-minutes/Sessions/session-012.

[10] Free African Americans worked at the University in both skilled and unskilled positions. A free Black community formed near the University in a neighborhood called Canada. However, both the University and the state of Virginia did not welcome the presence of free African Americans. An 1806 law stipulated that they vacate the state within a year of emancipation. The thriving Canada neighborhood as well as records revealing that the University paid free Black workers is evidence this law was not strictly enforced. Brendan Wolf, “Kitty Foster,” Encyclopedia Virginia, Virginia Humanities, accessed January 22, 2021, https://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Foster_Kitty_ca_1790-1863#start_entry.

[11] John A.G. Davis, Journals of the Chairman of the Faculty for Session 12, 1835-1836, 11 March 1836, Jefferson’s University … the early life, http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/chairman-journal/Sessions/session-012.

[12] John A.G. Davis, Journals of the Chairman of the Faculty for Session 13, 1836-1837, 17 February 1837, Jefferson’s University … the early life, http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/chairman-journal/Sessions/session-013.

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Written by

Meggan Cashwell

Meggan Cashwell is a postdoctoral research associate in legal history for UVA Law Special Collections. She is spearheading the library’s forthcoming edited history of legal education at the Law School (UVA Press).

Logan Heiman

Logan Heiman is Communications Specialist in the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Technology and UVA Law Library Special Collections. He previously served as project cataloger for the Stuart Cary Welch Islamic and South Asian Photograph Collection at the Harvard Fine Arts Library.

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