Charlottesville has planned several events throughout the city next week for its first official celebration of Liberation and Freedom Day.
The City Council voted last year to nix the celebration of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday by removing April 13 as a paid holiday. The panel then voted to establish March 3 as Liberation and Freedom Day and provide employees a floating holiday.
Tuesday will commemorate the arrival of Union forces who liberated local enslaved people.
On March 3, 1865, Union troops under Gen. Philip Sheridan arrived in the area and planned to burn Charlottesville as part of the total war strategy to destroy the Confederacy’s ability to wage war.
Sheridan was sent to the city to destroy the Virginia Central railroad line, cutting off Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s supply line to the Shenandoah Valley.
Sheridan was met by Thomas Preston, rector of the University of Virginia, and three faculty members, who persuaded him not to destroy the school and city.
Sheridan occupied the city until March 6 and, during that time, many slaves used the occupation to free themselves.
UVa and other organizations hosted a series of events to commemorate the day starting in 2017.
This year, events will kick off on Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m. as the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center hosts a discussion on racial justice and black feminism.
A vigil will then take place from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the site of the former slave auction block on Court Square.
A marker recognizing the auction block, criticized in recent years for being illegible, was stolen earlier this month.
Richard H. Allan III, 74, of Albemarle County, faces felony charges of grand larceny and possession of burglarious tools for taking it. The marker was set into the sidewalk and said, “Slave Auction Block” and underneath said, “On this site slaves were bought and sold.”
The plaques are located at a building erected as a mercantile store in the 1820s. A stone block outside the building was the site of slave auctions.
The Court Square Markers subcommittee of the Historic Resources Committee is considering a design for a temporary replacement.
Monday will feature a lecture at UVa’s Albert and Shirley Small Collections Library on the liberation of African Americans in Civil War-era Charlottesville.
Professor Ervin L. Jordan Jr. and William Kurtz, managing director and digital historian at John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History will be the speakers.
City offices will be closed on Tuesday to celebrate Liberation and Freedom Day. The voter registrar’s office will remain open for voting in the Democratic Presidential Primary.
Several events are planned for Tuesday.
At 3 p.m., the University of Virginia will host a service at the Rotunda with chaplains and community members.
The Jefferson School then will host a “Procession of Freedom” and community dinner.
The procession will start at the UVa Chapel at 4 p.m., moving to a blessing ceremony at the UVa Memorial to Enslaved Laborers and then down Main Street to the Jefferson School.
From 5:30 to 7 p.m., the community dinner will feature a panel discussion by descendants of people who were enslaved locally.
First Baptist Church at 632 W. Main St. will host a performance by the Aeolians of Oakwood University at 6 p.m. March 4. The event is free and open to the public.
At 7 p.m. on March 5, a concert is planned at The Haven titled “Hush Harbor: African American Sacred Song Concert.” It will feature local artists and musicians performing traditional spirituals used during hush harbor religious gatherings during the period of enslavement. It is free and open to the public.
Jefferson School Executive Director Andrea Douglas will discuss prominent African American women at 11 a.m. March 7.
Later that day, Douglas and UVa Associate Professor Jalane Schmidt will host a walking tour of downtown Confederate monuments starting at 2 p.m. in Court Square.
At 3:30 p.m., the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library’s Central Library will host a community retrospective on the city’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials and Public Spaces. The discussion will also feature an update on bills in the Virginia General Assembly that would give local governments the power to decide the fate of Confederate monuments.
At 5 p.m. in Tonsler Park, city officials will celebrate the renaming of 6 ½ Street Southwest to Winneba Way.
At 7 p.m., the Jefferson School will host a spoken word open mic session focused on liberation.
On Sunday, March 8, a psychology and theology professor will host a discussion on African American intergenerational trauma. The talk is scheduled for 2 p.m. at CitySpace.