Days after an Albemarle County man removed a plaque that marks the spot where enslaved people were bought and sold in Charlottesville, he was arrested Tuesday and charged with two felonies.
According to the Charlottesville Police Department, Richard H. Allan, III, 74, was arrested at his Albemarle County studio at 4 p.m. and has been charged with grand larceny and possession of burglarious tools.
Allan is currently being held at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail pending a bail review, according to police.
The site of the marker remains empty, but that’s not for lack of trying.
Allan and another man say they want to better tell the story of enslaved people in Charlottesville, with Allan removing the city-issued marker and the other man replacing it with his own version. But by Tuesday evening, the brick sidewalk bore a hole where the original marker once lay.
On Thursday, the marker built into the sidewalk of what is now Park Street went missing. Allan told Cville Weekly that he pried the marker out of the ground, offended by its proclamation that “On this site slaves were bought and sold.”
A new, black marker — reports differed on whether it was made of wood or stone — that read in white letters, “HUMAN AUCTION SITE: In 1619 the first African kidnap victims arrived in VA. Buying and selling of humans ended in 1865. For 246 years this barbaric trade took place on sites like this,” was placed in the empty space early Tuesday morning.
Richard Parks told CBS19 that he placed his marker in the ground because he wants to “raise awareness, get attention and get things changed.”
But by early Tuesday afternoon, Parks’ marker was removed by the city from the sidewalk, as well as one that was placed on the side of 0 Court Square that read “Site of Slave Block.” City spokesman Brian Wheeler said city staff will continue to remove “any makeshift markers placed at the slave auction block site.”
“As we continue our investigation into the missing marker, the city manager is seeking recommendations from the Historic Resources Committee for a more appropriate permanent marker in line with their ongoing work evaluating the other historic markers in the Court Square area,” Wheeler said. “This is an important site in the city’s history and we can take this opportunity to improve the signage and add more historical context. Our goal remains to tell a more complete story about Charlottesville’s past here and in our downtown parks.”
The city’s Historic Resources Committee has been discussing ways to improve the memorials, and the Court Square markers subcommittee recently discussed a temporary replacement.
In an interview Tuesday afternoon, Allan said that he was first made aware of the plaques when he read a letter to the editor from Eugene Williams in a June 2014 issue of The Daily Progress.
In his letter, Williams questioned the removal of the “Site of Slave Block” slate plaque from the side of 0 Court Square, which he said was replaced by an “unobtrusive marker set into the sidewalk” and a marble plaque on the wall, which is “difficult to see, let alone read.”
Allan claimed that the “insulting sign in the ground” was placed in the wrong location — and that it should be around the corner. He said, “it’s been riling me ever since.”
Allan said he reached out to Williams and then decided to research why the slate plaque was removed, but received “unsatisfactory answers,” and published his findings in a local monthly paper.
He said the lack of response to his concerns from the city and his family’s history of owning slaves led him to pry the marker out of the sidewalk.
“It is my strong personal belief that we are in a time of political and moral paradigm shift,” Allan said. “…I have come to believe that that shift requires me to go deep inside my own self and say what can I do to repair the horrible and brutal history toward Native and African Americans, and it was out of that motive that I acted for reparation, a deed of reparation.”
But before Allan could be asked what he did with the marker, he told The Progress that police officers were at his writing studio and that he had to go, and put the phone down. After about two minutes of muted talking the line went dead.
After contacting the city years ago, Allan also reached out to city council members and local media outlets in November.
In an email, Allan wrote that the “Site of Slave Block” sign should be replaced, and that the city should erect a “25-foot column honoring the enslaved generations who produced the bulk of Albemarle’s entire economy up through 1865,” among other things.
Councilor Heather Hill replied briefly, thanking Allan for his note and saying she would forward it to the Historic Resources Committee.
Allan responded to Hill that he was “concerned that if Council does not fast track and keep this issue on front burner it will fall through cracks again.”
“It will be embarrassing if national media comes in and places a spotlight on this sensitive issue and I don’t wish that to happen,” he said.
On Tuesday, Allan said he recently met Parks and sent him his research, and the two met for coffee.
He said he “never intended to hurt anyone’s feelings.”
“What I intended to do was make a personal act of repair for what I think is a moral indignity and humiliation to people alive today…,” Allan said. “You can’t put this underfoot.”
On Tuesday evening, after Allan’s arrest, Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney said the original marker allegedly taken by Allan had not yet been recovered.