When the Union Army marched into town on March 3, 1865, more than half of Charlottesville and Albemarle County residents were free at last.
Now, 146 years later, the communities will celebrate with Liberation and Freedom Days, a week’s worth of events.
The Liberation and Freedom Days series of events recognizes the fact that 53% of area residents were enslaved when Charlottesville’s mayor and the rector of the University of Virginia surrendered the town and the school.
The anniversary will be commemorated with the ringing of the UVa Chapel bells between 1:50 and 2 p.m. Wednesday to mark the time of the surrender. The chapel is where the surrender took place.
In 2017, the Charlottesville City Council proclaimed March 3 as Liberation and Freedom Day and the county recognized the day the next year. The event also recognizes the thousands of enslaved residents who took the surrender as an opportunity for freedom and followed the Union soldiers’ advance toward Petersburg.
The week of events kicks off with a virtual slave auction block vigil called Honoring the Ancestors, at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. It will be livestreamed from Court Square in downtown Charlottesville. Don Gathers, Cauline Yates, Apostle Sarah Kelley, Jalane Schmidt, the Rev. Lehman Bates and others will acknowledge the trauma that took place there and honor ancestors of local enslaved people.
The Reparations Fun Run/Walk will take place between Monday and March 6 to raise funds to aid the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center’s teacher training program, as well as the NAACP’s Youth Council, Vinegar Hill Magazine’s Black business advertising fund, We Code Too, African American Teaching Fellows and 101.3 JAMZ.
These organizations all have Black leadership, and the goal of the event is to support them by raising $45,000 to be divided between the organizations.
The event is a 9-mile route through some of Charlottesville’s historic African American residential and business areas. The walk and run are individual and can be completed anytime during the dates.
At 6 p.m. Wednesday, the celebration’s keynote event will feature Christy Coleman, American historian and executive director of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.
For more information on events, go to jeffschoolheritagecenter.org.