Advocacy group calls for enslaved builders of Charlottesville to be honored

Feb 6, 2021 | Racial Social Justice

There is an Elephant in the civic living room of Charlottesville Virginia, says Honor-Slave-Block Advocacy Group. This is article is written by Freeman Allan, HSB/Slave Museum Secretary; Author; Researcher; Iconologist; Social Justice Activist

This month marks twenty years of City of Charlottesville failure to visibly acknowledge its historic Slave Block and Slave Market. Surrounding towns have done so. Monticello and the University of Virginia have memorialized their enslaved workers. Our County Supervisors have removed a 25-foot Rebel statue. They removed the two civil war cannons symbolically holding our town’s center hostage to the Past.

This is no longer just about the 20-25 years when City officials themselves removed the Slave Block sign from the Slave Market Building at 0 Park Street, Charlottesville, at the request of the lawyers that then occupied the building. It is also about 59 years of labeling the Slave Market with the tiny euphemistic words ‘Mercantile Building.’

For more than six months our Honor-Slave-Block Citizen Group has urged Charlottesville City Council to rectify this dereliction of responsibility. We proposed the Slave Market building be acquired as an educational museum to teach citizens and students truths about racism. Charleston and dozens of other towns in the US have done this. We applied for a Virginia Historic Marker. The city refused to approve it. Now, using the exact wording approved by the City a year ago for a temporary Marker – which was never installed – our Advocacy Group has made a simple public Marker. It is a Placeholder until the City installs a larger one.

We regret that City Manager John Blair has ignored our multiple requests for bolting it to the sidewalk. We have entered Black History Month. On Friday February 5 we will announce at Court Square the public presentation of our Marker to the City. This important story is aimed at Acknowledgement, Repair, Reconciliation and Healing.

Wording of the Presentation: There is a stain on this corner caused by failure to honor the more than 20,000 enslaved workers who built Albemarle and Charlottesville in the centuries before 1865. We believe White silence equals violence. Until twenty and more years ago there was a visible memorial on the wall of this slave market building. It was stolen or removed. Since that time our city has continued unable to rectify the need for a historic Marker here.  A group of civic-minded citizens has funded this dignified memorial marker. We offer it as a PLACEHOLDER until the city that we love moves forward with its larger memorialization plan here at Court Square. We request our City Manager to accept and anchor to the sidewalk today these words provided by the City Council’s Historic Resources Committee.

On Friday, February 5, there was a public presentation of these concerns. See coverage from NBC29 here. Watch the live stream event at Sojourners United Church of Christ Facebook

Related article:

The Daily Progress published a collection of the events photos here.

Photo: Freeman Allan at the Slave Auction Block site in front of the Slave Market Building on 0 Park Street, Charlottesville. Photo by Heidi Dhivya Berthoud, October 28, 2020

Join us at the weekly vigils to remember that Black Lives Do Matter:

  • Wednesdays 12:30-1:30  Across from 0 Park St, Charlottesville, on the Court House side of the street. A silent vigil.
  • Wednesdays 4- 5 pm Sojourners United Church of Christ, 1017 Elliott Ave, Charlottesville.



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