The stretch of Fourth Street between West Main and Preston Avenue in Charlottesville was declared honorary Black History Pathway in 2021, but the pandemic prevented any sort of official celebration.
That changes this weekend.
At 10:45 a.m. on Saturday, the man behind Black History Pathway will be hosting an official ceremony and celebration for the sign marking the street’s honorary title.
Festivities will begin at the intersection of Fourth and West Main where the sign marking Black History Pathway now stands and end at Carver Recreation Center.
“There was never any official unveiling because of COVID,” Charles “Alex-Zan” Alexander, who originated the idea of a Black History Pathway years ago, told The Daily Progress on Wednesday. “So this Saturday, this is going to be a little, small official unveiling of the sign. Then we’re going to shift over to Carver and do a celebration and honor our elders.”
Alexander said Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook and Police Chief Michael Kochis have both told him they expect to attend the ceremony and celebration.
Alexander, an author and one of the Charlottesville 12 group that integrated the city’s schools in 1959, filed a request with the city in the summer of 2020 to bestow the honorary name Black History Pathway to Fourth Street Northwest. The road cuts through what was once a thriving Black neighborhood called the Hill – not to be confused with Vinegar Hill, just west of the present-day Downtown Mall.
Both neighborhoods were razed in 1964 in the name of urban renewal.
Alexander told The Daily Progress in 2021 that while the buildings may be gone, the history of the place remains and deserves to be honored.
City Council agreed and granted his request in a unanimous vote.
“The city’s political forces saw a run-down slum that developed on the hillside adjoining the downtown business district, disregarding an area of proud, dignified, full-of-life Black folk who called the Hill home with no apologies,” Alexander said in 2021 after City Council’s vote.
The honorary name, and Saturday’s ceremony and celebration, aim to shine a spotlight on that life, that pride and that dignity.
Planned highlights for Saturday’s event include performances by vocalists Mark Williams and Zaria Jordan as well as musician Ivan Orr, a tribute to community elders past and present, a discussion with author Lucille Smith and exhibitions displaying local artists.
Alexander said on Wednesday that his plans for the pathway are not over yet.
Not only would he like to see a mural near where the current sign is standing at West Main and Fourth, but he’d also like to see the pathway itself extended.
“It ‘s going to go beyond Fourth Street, that’s what I’d like to see,” Alexander said. “Down around Preston then up to Rose Hill.”
Black history, and the Black History Pathway, Alexander said can’t and shouldn’t be limited to a single stretch of road.