Center For Mason Legacies

Enslaved People of George Mason Memorial

The EPGM project seeks to reconstruct the 18th-century experiences of enslaved children and adults on the Gunston Hall Plantation in order to raise awareness about the namesake of George Mason University.


Black Lives Next Door

The ongoing project “Black Lives Next Door” began during the summer of 2020. Six undergraduates, three faculty members, and two doctoral candidates conducted an
investigation into the early years of George Mason College, the universities’ institutional predecessor. Student researchers asked a series of questions about early institutional policies concerning Black students, African American campus life, and a campus culture of racial discrimination. The research team used an interdisciplinary methodological approach, and their findings revealed a troubling past despite the university's being the most diverse institution in Virginia today.


Mason Family Account Book

In 2012, the University Libraries acquired a Mason family manuscript account book documenting the business, family, and personal accounts of Stevens Thomson Mason (1760- 1803) and his son, Armistead Thomson Mason (1787-1819). Professors Cynthia Kierner and George Oberle co-taught a documentary editing course in Spring 2020 using the Mason family account book. Through this course, students began transcribing entries from the account book and conducting related biographical research of
the people in the account book. This transcription and research project is ongoing and will lead to a valuable, public online research tool.


Complicating Mason HUB

The Complicating Mason Hub represents a critically reflexive collection of records related to the Mason family and their tangled history of settler-colonial dispossession, enslavement, and commitment to political rights for a limited few. The Hub also includes the forthcoming George Mason University History Trail, which offers an interactive learning experience exploring the history of named buildings on campus, the complex backgrounds of the individuals they commemorate, and an examination of the origins of institutional traditions, while also acknowledging a diversity of people and histories that shaped these spaces.

Recent Research

Partus Sequitur Ventrum

Partus Sequitur Ventrum, Latin for “that which is born follows the womb,” was established as law in Virginia in 1662. This law broke from the British custom of patrilineal heredity and made enslavement a function of maternal inheritance, thereby perpetually enslaving children born to enslaved mothers. How were the lives of enslaved Black women further complicated by this law?

Fade to White – Ilda and the Right to Remain

Under tall trees off a rolling stretch of suburban tarmac, Braeburn Drive in Annandale, Ilda Pool occupies a small and pleasant glen. With a wide, flat parking lot, crooked bike rack and low-slung brick pavilions, it looks like the many other neighborhood swim clubs dotting curvy streets and cul de sacs that criss-cross Fairfax County’s former farms.

Bridgett Town

How Hostile Nostalgia Obscured its Memory and how Henri Lefebvre’s Production of Space Could Bring it Back

Finding Sarah Ann

Sarah Ann was enslaved in Fairfax County Virginia in the early 1800s by the Follin family. The Follin family plantation has remained unknown in today’s world, having been bulldozed over and developed and therefore, so has the life of Sarah Ann. Her strategically silenced and smothered story has never been told.

Student Researchers Discussing Findings in Spring 2023 Black Lives Next Door Class.
Student Researchers Discussing Findings in Spring 2023 Black Lives Next Door Class.

Our purpose

CML has formal members consisting of faculty, staff, and graduate research assistants (some active and some are alumni of the center) as well as student researchers, and community members, sharing the reciprocal relationship between all the contributors.

Teaching Resources

We offer methods of research, teaching, and scholarship around the history of Northern Virginia, and serving as a resource for people interested in the complexities of the past and its relationship to the present.


Sharing Stories

We are guided by a non-bias methodology to create a digital repository that serves as a tool to connect and make legible myriad histories visible.

Our research services are centered around the communities of Mason, Northern Virginia, K12 educators, local government agencies, grant funding institutions and agencies.

Students and Faculty Listening to scholar Richard Rothstein and Leah Rothstein<br />
discussing their latest research building on the important work The Color of Law held in the<br />
Fenwick Library in October 2022.
Students and Faculty Listening to scholar Richard Rothstein and Leah Rothstein discussing their latest research building on the important work The Color of Law held in the Fenwick Library in October 2022.