William & Mary is in the midst of constructing a memorial to the people who were enslaved by the university. Titled “Hearth: Memorial to the Enslaved,” the brick structure will resemble a fireplace and will feature the names of people who are known to have been enslaved by the university.
Situated near the Wren Building and across the street from the Office of Undergraduate Admission, the memorial will serve as a gathering place for the community and as a reimagined entrance to the university’s Historic Campus. Also nearby is the newly created Legacy Tribute Garden, which honors the first three African-American residential students at William & Mary, and those that came before them, and Hulon L. Willis Sr. Hall, named for the first African American enrolled at the university.
The idea for the memorial came from a Student Assembly resolution that asked the university to research its history with slavery, share those findings publicly and establish a memorial to people once enslaved by W&M. That resolution led the Board of Visitors in 2009 to establish the Lemon Project, a long-term research endeavor that is exploring W&M’s history with slavery and discrimination and its ongoing relationship with the Black community.
The Lemon Project Committee on Memorialization was created in 2015, and in 2018, the university launched an international competition to solicit design concept ideas. The winning concept was created by William Sendor ’11.
The project was made possible largely through private donations. The Board of Visitors also played a significant role in supporting the project, marking it as an institutional priority. When the university raised more than $1 million in private gifts, the Board matched it to complete the funding needed for the memorial.
On May 26, 2021, the university hosted a ceremony to mark the beginning of construction on the memorial, which is expected to be completed in early 2022.