In 1826, months after Thomas Jefferson died, the Rotunda at the University of Virginia was completed. A memorial just east of the Rotunda was dedicated 194 years later in remembrance of the enslaved laborers who built it. On Tuesday, five names were added.

Myra Anderson, a descendant of enslaved laborers who built the University of Virginia, has been working for more than a year to join the names of her ancestors to the thousands of others that cover the 8-foot wall of the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers.

“This process of going back and forth with UVA officials incredibly confusing and frustrating,” Anderson said in a statement. “At times I really wanted to give up the fight, but my DNA wouldn’t let me. For well over a year now, I’ve been hoping and praying for this day.”

She received a letter from the university in December, informing her that five of her Hern ancestors would be added to the memorial. Along with a timeline of when the names would be added, the letter included an apology from the university for not including those names initially.

“What it means to me is bringing dignity and humanity to my enslaved ancestors who were here,” Anderson said. “The names give a true and accurate account of what happened here.”

Anderson was accompanied by other members of her family at a private dedication for the addition of their ancestors’ names. There was to be a public dedication of the memorial in April 2020, but it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has not yet been rescheduled.

Moving forward, Anderson is glad that people will see the names and know the story of the estimated 5,000 enslaved people who worked at the university from 1817 until the end of the Civil War in 1865.

“I actually would like to write a children’s book about my experience of getting my ancestors names on the wall and their connection to the University of Virginia, so that’s my next step,” Anderson said.

“The process was very long, [but] it’s nothing compared to what my ancestors endured here,” she said.

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    A descendant of the Hern family touches the University of Virginia Memorial to Enslaved Laborers after five members of family were added to the memorial. The Herns were enslaved at Monticello and labored at the University of Virginia.

    Credit: Mike Kropf/Charlottesville Tomorrow

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    Myra Anderson on Tuesday points to an ancestor's name on the University of Virginia Memorial to Enslaved Laborers. Anderson is a descendant of the Hern family, which was enslaved at Monticello and labored at the University of Virginia.

    Credit: Mike Kropf/Charlottesville Tomorrow

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    Myra Anderson on Tuesday holds her nephew Kingston Anderson as he points to an ancestor's name along the inscriptions on the University of Virginia Memorial to Enslaved Laborers. The Hern family were enslaved at Monticello and labored at the University of Virginia.

    Credit: Mike Kropf/Charlottesville Tomorrow

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    Myra Anderson, whose Hern family ancestors were enslaved at Monticello, points Tuesday to the name of an ancestor inscribed on the University of Virginia Memorial to Enslaved Laborers.

    Credit: Mike Kropf/Charlottesville Tomorrow

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    Members of the Hern family stand Tuesday at the University of Virginia Memorial to Enslaved Laborers. The names of five of their ancestors, who were enslaved at Monticello and toiled at the University of Virginia, were added to the memorial.

    Credit: Mike Kropf/Charlottesville Tomorrow

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    Remarks are read during a private ceremony to dedicate the addition of the names of five members of the Hern family to the University of Virginia Memorial to Enslaved Laborers. Those family members were enslaved at Monticello and labored at the University of Virginia. Some of their descendants still live in the Charlottesville area.

    Credit: Mike Kropf/Charlottesville Tomorrow

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    Myra Anderson, who Hern family ancestors were enslaved at Monticello, walks Tuesday along the inscriptions on the University of Virginia Memorial to Enslaved Laborers.

    Credit: Mike Kropf/Charlottesville Tomorrow