The vessel that serves as the heart of William & Mary’s Hearth: Memorial to the Enslaved was dedicated on May 4, 2023.

Just as the memorial resembles a fireplace hearth and is meant to symbolize both a place of community and the center of domestic enslavement, the vessel within it invites visitors to come closer, gather and ponder.

A fire will be lit in the vessel once a year at special events.

The event began with a drum call led by Kurt Patterson of the Elegba Folklore Society followed by a performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by Ebony Expressions.

Steve Prince pours water from a bottle

Steve Prince, director of engagement and distinguished artist in residence at the Muscarelle Museum or Art, performed a libation ceremony.

Chief Diversity Officer Chon Glover M.Ed. ’99, Ed.D. ’06, welcomed guests to the event.

Katherine Rowe speaks at a podium

President Katherine A. Rowe also addressed the crowd, along with Cynthia F. Hudson J.D. ’87, a member of the Board of Visitors, and Jody Allen Ph.D. ’07, assistant professor of history and Robert F. Engs Director of the Lemon Project.

A crowd of people sitting outside

Hundreds attended the dedication, which served as the culmination of years of work toward a memorial to the people enslaved by W&M. Ideas for the vessel design were solicited when students in the new sculpture course Ceremonial Vessel Project organized workshops and entries for a campus-wide competition in fall 2021. Michael Gaynes, lecturer of art, taught the sculpture course.

Two people stand by a sculpture that holds a flame

Among those in attendance were Lynn Briley ’71 and Janet Brown Strafer ’71, two of the first three African-American residential students at William & Mary — later known as the “Legacy 3.” The university recently commemorated the 50th anniversary of the trio’s arrival on campus.

Two people pose for a photo together

Also in attendance was Richmond artist Charlie Ponticello (right, pictured here with Allen), who created the vessel, which was designed by Baskervill architectural firm. The design was based on a proposal submitted by Neil Norman, associate professor of anthropology, and his wife, daughter and son.

People standing in a circle raise their glasses in a toast

The people who helped make the memorial and its vessel a reality celebrated together with a non-alcoholic cider toast following the ceremony.

The Hearth memorial was dedicated last May. Earlier this semester, Glover remarked on how it has transformed campus in less than a year.

“Alumni and visitors have been drawn into its presence as they walk through Historic Campus and learn more about our inclusive history; Student Assembly has created the tradition of inviting all students to gather at the Hearth during  Orientation to sign and recite the Community Values pledge and each year we will host the community collaboration Juneteenth event there,” said Glover. “With the final addition of the vessel, we will begin to realize all of its possibilities and build upon its impact for all time coming.”

, University News & Media