Know Their Names

Photograph take from the balcony of the President's Mansion. This is the earliest known photograph of UA's campus.

Rotunda and the Quad at The University of Alabama in 1859

Ben, Moses, Isaac, Jack, Lydia, William, Binkey, Peter, Mary, Boysey, Gabe, Neal, Luna, Arthur, Sam

Above are just some of the names of the enslaved men and women of African descent who built The University of Alabama. We know their names because they are recorded in the early administration records of the university. In the Faculty Minutes, President Basil Manly’s diaries, President Landon Garland’s letter books, the Minutes of the Board of Trustees Meetings, and in the institution’s receipts and accounts we find details about their lives that are mostly concentrated on the work they performed but which sometimes unintentionally reveal other more personal information. Of course, these records are framed from the perspective of the elite white male Southerners who created them, meaning that we have to read the sources carefully if we want to understand the lives of these individuals – and the dozens of unnamed others – from their perspectives. This digital exhibit is an attempt to do just that.

The tabs above provide a general outline of slavery at The University of Alabama (Overview), a timeline that highlights some of the key moments in the history of race and slavery in the U.S., the state of Alabama, and at UA (Timeline), a database of names of the enslaved people on campus we have identified so far with transcriptions of the sources that discuss them and links to the original documents (Their Names), and, finally, narrative biographies of some of the individuals identified (Their Lives). More information about this project can be found on the About page.

Please note that some of the material contained in this exhibit might be distressing or difficult to read. Slavery was a brutal and violent institution based on white supremacy and these facts are reflected in many of the documents and transcriptions included on this website.