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Educated in Tyranny

Slavery at Thomas Jefferson’s University
Edited by Maurie D. McInnis and Louis P. Nelson

BUY Cloth · 280 pp. · 7 × 9 · ISBN 9780813942865 · $29.95 · Aug 2019
BUY Ebook · 280 pp. · ISBN 9780813942872 · $29.95 · Aug 2019

From the University of Virginia’s very inception, slavery was deeply woven into its fabric. Enslaved people first helped to construct and then later lived in the Academical Village; they raised and prepared food, washed clothes, cleaned privies, and chopped wood. They maintained the buildings, cleaned classrooms, and served as personal servants to faculty and students. At any given time, there were typically more than one hundred enslaved people residing alongside the students, faculty, and their families. The central paradox at the heart of UVA is also that of the nation: What does it mean to have a public university established to preserve democratic rights that is likewise founded and maintained on the stolen labor of others?

In Educated in Tyranny, Maurie McInnis, Louis Nelson, and a group of contributing authors tell the largely unknown story of slavery at the University of Virginia. While UVA has long been celebrated as fulfilling Jefferson’s desire to educate citizens to lead and govern, McInnis and Nelson document the burgeoning political rift over slavery as Jefferson tried to protect southern men from anti-slavery ideas in northern institutions. In uncovering this history, Educated in Tyranny changes how we see the university during its first fifty years and understand its history hereafter.


A model of engaged and compassionate scholarship, drawing upon prodigious research and ingenious methods, Educated in Tyranny is essential to understanding the University of Virginia. This is a book written by people who care deeply about the University, who are devoted to telling its story honestly and fully.

Edward L. Ayers, University of Richmond, author of The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America

Educated in Tyranny is fascinating, well-written, and well-argued. The book is a very important landmark in the ongoing work on the history of slavery at universities. It also demonstrates the power of collaborative projects in uncovering such histories. McInnis and Nelson offer a powerful reflection of the process that the University of Virginia has undertaken, and a powerful record of the ways in which the institution has chosen to honor and claim this difficult history.

Leslie M. Harris, Northwestern University, co-editor of Slavery and the University: Histories and Legacies

About the Author: 

Maurie D. McInnis is Executive Vice President and Provost at The University of Texas at Austin and the author of Slaves Waiting for Sale: Abolitionist Art and the American Slave Trade.

Louis P. Nelson, Vice Provost for Academic Outreach and Professor of Architectural History at the University of Virginia, is coeditor of Charlottesville 2017: The Legacy of Race and Inequity (Virginia).

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