Lessons from the painful history of the two longest-standing structures on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus can be applied to aspects of modern-day individual and societal health and will be the topic of a virtual panel discussion hosted by the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. “Imagining the Future through the Solitude-Fraction Site on the Campus of Virginia Tech: An Unfinished Conversation on a Contested Space” will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 17. Register for the event.

The two structures, Solitude and the Fraction Family House, sit adjacent to each other on a plot of land east of the Duck Pond. Solitude was originally built in 1801 and was owned by the family of Col. Robert Preston, who enslaved people like the Fraction, McNorton, and Saunders families on the surrounding plantation. The smaller structure, now called the Fraction Family House, is where some of those multiple generations of African American families lived while they were enslaved.

“The ongoing presence of the Solitude-Fraction site can help us grasp histories of displacement, slavery, and inequality that made possible the existence of Virginia Tech today,” said Emily Satterwhite, an associate professor of Appalachian Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Satterwhite; Kerri Moseley-Hobbs, founder and executive director of the More Than a Fraction Foundation; and Victoria Ferguson, member of the Monacan Indian Nation and director/docent for the Solitude-Fraction site in the Office for Inclusion and Diversity, are panelists for the talk.

Looking ahead to the Virginia Tech sesquicentennial program “1872 Forward: Celebrating Virginia Tech,” the panelists will delve deeper into the concept of generational trauma and what we can learn from the past.

“The traumas these families endured carry health impacts that often go unrecognized and continue over generations,” said Lee Learman, dean of the medical school. “We thought it would be especially relevant to discuss the social determinants of health within this transgenerational context, and to provide our medical students an historical perspective to inform their care of patients.”

Moseley-Hobbs said the event will be a testimony to the potential growth that comes from facing things you’d rather avoid.

“It will be great to further explore and get students thinking about the health impacts of generational trauma,” Moseley-Hobbs said. “My goal is to help others realize the good things that come from bringing these stories forward — taking diversity and inclusion to a whole new level.”



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