Virginia Tech dedicates plaza to family of first known Black employee

Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 4:22 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - The legacy of Andrew Oliver and Fannie Vaughn-Oliver will be remembered on the Virginia Tech campus forever at the Vaughn-Oliver Plaza.

Oliver is the first known Black employee of the university in the 1870s. He worked as a custodian and a gardener and planted some of the original trees on campus.

“Even though the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College had no ownership of enslaved Africans, it was very much built on the profits of their labor and I think it’s wonderful that the university has now begun to acknowledge that,” said Dan Thorp, Virginia Tech Associate Professor of History.

The Vaughn-Oliver Plaza is outside the Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Building on campus.

“It’s a good start,” said Associate Pastor of Greater Mt. Zion United Holy Church Jessie Eaves. “It’s a good beginning and this is a 150-year celebration for Tech, too, so the dedication of the Vaughn-Oliver Plaza is a great thing. I wish more people will be recognized.”

Thorp says he’s been pushing for events like the September 29 dedication for a while.

“If you look at any Blacksburg census for 1920 to 1930, family after family after family of African Americans literally kept this school working,” Thorp said. “They were the ones that made this school function.”

The Vaughn-Oliver Plaza will serve as a reminder of the past for generations to come.

“History is important and a lot of times things have not been recognized and now, I don’t know what the difference in time is, but now, they seem to be recognizing the need to recognize people for their achievements,” Eaves said.