University of Georgia officials have revealed their plans for the Baldwin Hall memorial, designed to honor the lives of the slaves whose remains were found during construction in 2015.
The design includes an elevated fountain in the center of the memorial plaza, a granite marker with an unannounced inscription and two granite benches.
UGA President Jere W. Morehead selected 18 campus and community members who sat on the Baldwin Hall Memorial Advisory Task Force, the authority that recommended the design of the memorial.
“I am grateful to Dr. Cook and the members of the task force for their compassion, thoughtfulness and dedication to this important endeavor for our campus community,” Morehead said in a press release. “The memorial they have helped to develop not only will further honor the lives of the individuals whose remains were discovered, but it also will serve as a source of contemplation and inspiration for generations to come.”
A quarry on the Millie Long Estate in Oglethorpe County will donate 35,000 pounds of granite for the design.
Michelle Garfield Cook, vice provost for diversity and inclusion and strategic university initiatives and chair of the task force, is a member of the family 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 the 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.”
Linda Davis, coordinator for the Brooklyn Cemetery restoration who has previously been vocal about UGA’s handling of the Baldwin Hall remains, praised the design.
“When I saw the initial drawing, I thought ‘Oh my goodness,’’’ Davis said. “This really is a stately memorial and a fitting memorial.”
Davis said she was pleased by the selection of task force members, but would have liked representation from UGA’s history, African American studies or anthropology departments.
“A lot of new faces are there, and those faces represent parts of the community that have not been included in the past,” Davis said. “It always pleases me when we are widening the social fabric of the network so that people actually can be a part of something that is happening at the university.”
Among the task force members was Student Government Association President Ammishaddai Grand-Jean. SGA Vice President Charlene Marsh had previously advocated for a monument honoring the slaves, which then-President Cameron Keen vetoed last spring, citing factual issues.
After multiple requests, SGA executives declined to comment.
Co-chair of the Athens Area Black History Committee Fred Smith, who praised the monument as a step forward, criticized the exclusion of campus and community members who had previously been outspoken on UGA’s handling, in an email.
In the etching, Smith hopes to see a historical account of the site’s function as a slave cemetery in the late 1700s, the cemetery’s subsequent closure in 1859 and the removal and relocation of remains since 1938. Smith also said it is important for the etching to acknowledge the contributions made by slaves to UGA and Athens.
“There should be a clear acknowledgement that people still are buried there,” Smith said.
Construction on the memorial will begin soon, the press release said. Plans for a dedication ceremony will be announced later this fall.
Clarification: In a previous version of this article, Linda Davis was referred to by a different title.