The University of Georgia will sponsor additional research to learn more about the lives of the 105 individuals whose gravesites were discovered during the construction of the Baldwin Hall expansion.
Following the discovery of the remains in November 2015, the university immediately consulted with the State Archaeologist’s Office for guidance. The university then commissioned a team of faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students—led by Dr. Laurie Reitsema from UGA’s anthropology department—to explore ancestry, age, sex and other characteristics of the individuals. Samples from nearly one-third of the remains were sufficient for DNA analysis, and the researchers found that the vast majority of this subset were of African descent.
In a continuing effort to learn more about the individuals, a second stage of university-sponsored research will be coordinated by UGA’s Vice President for Research David Lee. This additional inquiry will build upon the preliminary analyses to understand better how these 105 individuals lived as well as their connections to the Athens community, including any ties to slavery.
“Since the first remains were discovered, the university has been actively seeking to learn as much as possible about these individuals,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “That is why we sponsored the initial research and have the information we have today. We hope this next step in the research process will lead to a more complete story of who these individuals were, how they lived, and how they came to rest on the Baldwin Hall site.”
In the coming weeks, Lee will assemble a team of faculty members with relevant expertise from across the university to develop a research plan to conduct the follow-up study.
“Expanding on the initial findings will require multidisciplinary collaborations from all across campus,” said Lee. “I look forward to this important work, which is in keeping with the university’s mission as a land-grant research institution.”
To continue the university’s ongoing efforts to collaborate with the Athens community, Morehead also will be meeting later this spring with members of the university, city officials and other local leaders to explore new ways to work together around priorities of mutual interest, such as education and economic development.
“I have lived in Athens for more than 30 years, and I care deeply about this place and its future,” Morehead said. “As I reflect on the process and events surrounding the Baldwin Hall site, I see a great opportunity for the university and the community to reaffirm and expand our strong partnership.”
The university and Athens-Clarke County already partner on a number of major initiatives, such as Experience UGA, which aims to bring every Clarke County student (Pre-K-12) to UGA’s campus every year. In addition, faculty and students from the institution work regularly with local organizations to complete service-learning projects that address important community needs.
Morehead said that he hopes the discussion will point to even more opportunities to connect university expertise and outreach programs to local challenges and issues as well as create new avenues for members of the Athens community to engage in the institution’s vibrant campus life.
“The city of Athens and the University of Georgia are inextricably linked—the success of one contingent upon the success of the other,” Morehead said, “and I look forward to a great discussion about our shared goals for the future.”