Virginia Tech names plaza after first Black employee and family

Naming honors Oliver’s contributions to the university

Vaughn-Oliver Plaza (Photo by Leslie King for Virginia Tech)

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Almost 150 years ago, history was being made on the Virginia Tech campus. In the 1870′s when the university first opened, Andrew Jackson Oliver was hired as the first known Black employee at Virginia Tech.

Because of the color of his skin, Oliver was never allowed to enroll in the school.

As a tribute to the Oliver family for their contribution to the school, the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors recently approved a resolution to name the plaza at the entrance of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences building the “Vaughn-Oliver Plaza.”

The board named the plaza for the Olivers in recognition of the family’s time, service and influence on the history of the university. This plaza also honors the local Black community whose contributions to the university rarely received recognition.

Andrew Jackson Oliver became the janitor VA+MC at Virginia Tech once he was freed after the Civil War.

Oliver and Fannie Vaughn Oliver, who was also born a slave, married in 1859 and over the next 20 years had at least seven children.

Fannie Vaughn’s family includes her uncle, Gilbert, which is who Gilbert Street was named after.

Andrew Oliver and his family helped maintain and serve Virginia Tech since its origin and planted the first trees on campus.

About the Author:

Kamryn Buza joined 10 News as an intern in September 2021.