One of two historical plaques marking the site of a slave auction in Charlottesville’s Court Square has been taken.
The Charlottesville Police Department was notified by local media around 9 a.m. Thursday that the marker built into the sidewalk was missing.
Officers determined that the date “1619,” which was inscribed on a nearby lightpole, likely was chalked with dirt from beneath the marker. The date signifies the year the first Africans were brought as slaves to Virginia.
Officials say they aren’t sure if the plaque was stolen or “taken for protection.”
The mounting on another marker that was on the wall of a nearby structure was damaged and that plaque was taken down by the building’s tenants, according to city spokesman Brian Wheeler.
In a statement, City Manager Tarron Richardson said the city is “very disappointed” that the sidewalk marker was taken.
City police have filed a larceny report and will investigate the incident.
In a news release, officials noted that the “1619” marking is similar to what was tagged on the statues of Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson in September.
The plaques are at a building erected as a mercantile store in the 1820s. A stone block outside the building was the site of slave auctions.
The marker has been criticized in recent years as being illegible and not visible enough.
A city Blue Ribbon Commission supported a two-phased process to memorialize people who were enslaved in the area. The first phase would have replaced the marker with a more visible one and the second phase would have commissioned a new memorial.
The city’s Historic Resources Committee has been discussing ways to improve the memorials.
Anyone with information is urged to call the Charlottesville Police Department at (434) 970-3280 or Crime Stoppers at (434) 977-4000. A reward of up to $1,000 is available for information leading to an arrest.