Kitty Foster Homestead and Cemetery

Historical Significance

Catherine "Kitty" Foster's home was located across from the University of Virginia in a community of free blacks called Canada. Canada was established in the 19th century, in part to provide laborers and domestics for the University. The community existed from the early 19th century until the 1920s, when the increasingly valuable land was purchased by white speculators.

Foster (born between 1790 and 1795) purchased land in Canada in 1833; her descendants owned the land until 1906. Foster was a laundress at the nearby University. An October 1832 receipt shows a Professor Turpin requesting the proctor of the University to pay Kitty Foster $4 for "washing before commencement." Upon Foster's death in 1863, her will subdivided the land among some of her children and additional houses were built.

By 1906, the Foster family property was sold to white developers. A clause in one of the deeds reserved the right to relocate the family cemetery from the property, but that apparently was never done. The graves were eventually covered over and forgotten until their rediscovery in 1993 during the construction of a new parking lot. A total of 32 graves have been located; most have been left undisturbed and comprise part of a newly designed memorial to the family. 

Physical Description

Kitty Foster's house was torn down in 2009 when construction began on a new college building, the South Lawn Project. The graveyard is delineated by a "shadow catcher," an outdoor, metal sculpture.

Geographical and Contact Information

University of Virginia, South Lawn, just east of Nau Hall, off Jefferson Park Ave
Charlottesville, Virginia
22904

Images

Aerial photo of the site.

Aerial photo of the site.

Source: University of Virginia. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, “Kitty Foster Homestead and Cemetery,” African American Historic Sites Database, accessed November 18, 2017, http://www.aahistoricsitesva.org/items/show/236.

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