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Temporary slave auction marker under consideration

A Charlottesville committee soon will consider a proposal to temporarily replace the missing plaque that marks the site of slave auctions in Court Square.

During a meeting of the Court Square markers subcommittee of the Historic Resources Committee on Monday, committee member Jalane Schmidt said a community member approached her about crafting a temporary marker.

“I think at the very least it would be something to talk about with the full committee and relay back,” she said.

One of the two markers was taken last week. The marker was set into the sidewalk. It said, “Slave Auction Block” and underneath said, “On this site slaves were bought and sold.”

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.

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.

City police are investigating the marker’s disappearance as a larceny and haven’t arrested anyone. An Albemarle County man claimed in an interview with C-Ville Weekly that he took the plaque and threw it in the James River, but his claims cannot be verified by official sources.

If his claims are true, Schmidt and fellow committee member Genevieve Keller said his actions were “misguided.”

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.

“We’ve lived with this myth that the past was a better, more beautiful place,” Keller said.

The full Historic Resources Committee will meet at 11 a.m. Friday in the Neighborhood Development Services conference room at City Hall, 605 E. Main St.


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