Lemon Project seeks to memorialize slaves owned by William & Mary

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WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WAVY) — The College of William and Mary is looking for ideas on how to memorialize the enslaved who helped make the school what it is today.

On Tuesday, the school opened a competition to seek designs for a memorial to be built on or near the historic campus part of the institution.

It’s part of the Lemon Project, which was established back in 2009.

“The Lemon Project is William and Mary’s response to a call to study its history where it involves slavery, make that history public, and establish a memorial to that history,” said Jody Allen, the project’s director.

Allen is also an assistant professor of history at the school.

She says the project is named after Lemon, a slave owned by the school.

Researchers found the most information about him, but Allen says there are many others.

“Lemon was not the only slave. Before the American Revolution, there was quite a few slaves. We don’t know the exact number,” she said.

Allen says they found that the college, contractors that worked with the college, the college’s president, and faculty owned slaves from the inception to the Civil War.

“It’s vital for us to remember the history of the enslaved, who not only helped to build and maintain William and Mary but who helped and build this country,” Allen said.

That’s why they want this memorial-to finally acknowledge those who have gone unnoticed for too long.

Allen says they’re welcoming anyone, professional or amateur, to submit designs.

“We want to see what their vision is. They might see this area in a whole new way where we haven’t experienced it,” she said.

While The Lemon Project includes the memorial, Allen says it also includes student well-being, community engagement, and community outreach, which can help our country grow past its racial wounds.

“You can’t chose to tell only the good pieces. We have to tell it all If we’re going to have success making any real change in this country,” she said.

And that can start by honoring the enslaved who were forgotten.

The deadline for submission is October 12.

A jury will select three designs to present to the college’s president in November.

The president will then select one design to present to the Board of Visitors in February.

Winners will receive a monetary prize.

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