What is Liberation and Freedom Day (2019)?

Introduction

In a unanimous vote, on 01 July 2019, the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, established a new city holiday, Liberation and Freedom Day, to be celebrated on 03 March 3.

Background

Union Army troops, under the command of Major General Philip Sheridan, arrived in Charlottesville on 03 March 1865 (refer to American Civil War), liberating over 14,000 slaves. “Blacks were the majority race in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area.” In the 1870 Census, the first one in which Charlottesville appears, its population was 2,838.

By 4-1 vote, the City Council decided that the 13 April birthday of Thomas Jefferson, founder of the University of Virginia, will no longer be an official holiday in the city of Charlottesville. News stories report that this change is because Jefferson was a slave owner.

On 03 March 2019, the slaves who built the University were honoured in a ceremony held in the University Rotunda. The University has built a Memorial to Enslaved Laborers, honouring the contributions of slaves who helped build and maintain the school. “The memorial was recommended by a commission convened in 2013 to study slavery and the university.”

Joining in the 03 March commemoration were:

  • Albemarle County Office of Equity and Inclusion.
  • Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia.
  • Charlottesville City Council.
  • Jefferson School African American Heritage Centre.
  • Memorial to Enslaved Laborers Community Engagement Committee.
  • National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People at the University of Virginia.
  • Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello.
  • United Ministries of the University of Virginia.
  • Alumni Board of Trustees of the University of Virginia.
  • Virginia Humanities.
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