In 2017, five undergraduate students received an OSCAR grant for a summer research project. Today, their research is transforming Wilkins Plaza.
“Never in a million years did I think research that I participated in as a sophomore in college would lead to anything major that the university would pay attention to,” said Kye Farrow, BA History ’19.
The Enslaved People of George Mason (EPGM) project began as an exploration of a question posed by students in the Honors College Living Learning Community: What are the stories of those people who were enslaved at Gunston Hall, and how do they inform the complex legacy of our university’s namesake?
Students spent summer 2017 and the following semester working with history department faculty members Benedict Carton and Wendi Manuel-Scott, along with George Oberle, history librarian at Mason’s Fenwick Library, researching archival documents at the Fairfax Circuit Court Historic Records Center, Gunston Hall, the Library of Congress, and elsewhere in an effort to find the answers.
Through court orders, wills, archaeological ruins, and more, they were able to piece together the stories of the enslaved people at Gunston Hall. Thanks to this team of students, lives that were once forgotten will now be remembered and memorialized as a permanent feature of Wilkins Plaza.
Wilkins Plaza is being renovated as part of the Core Campus Project to include sculptures of two of the enslaved people of Gunston Hall: James and Penny. These statues are meant to be in conversation with the familiar George Mason statue, to encourage a more thoughtful approach to how we celebrate and understand our national and local history.
The #MasonResearch video series highlights innovative student-led research being conducted at Mason. Research is a critical part of the university’s purpose and mission, and is vital to expanding our knowledge and developing tools and techniques that will have a positive impact.
As part of #MasonResearch, the EPGM Project is an exceptional example of how student-led research prepares Mason graduates to be engaged citizens and well-rounded scholars who are prepared to act.
Special thanks to those people and places featured in the video:
Alexis Bracey, BA Global Affairs ‘19
Kye Farrow, BA History ’19
Ayman Fatima, BS Systems Engineering and Government and International Politics ‘20
Farhaj Murshed, BS Statistics ‘20
Elizabeth Perez-Garcia, BS Criminology ‘19
Benedict Carton, Robert T. Hawkes Professor of History
Wendi N. Manuel-Scott, Professor of History and Art History/School of Integrative Studies
George Oberle, History Librarian, Fenwick Library
Wilkins Plaza renderings by Perkin+Will
Video by GMU-TV
February 27, 2020