UVA, Charlottesville Community Take Part in Liberation and Freedom Day

Posted: Updated:
Liberation and Freedom Day march at the University of Virginia Liberation and Freedom Day march at the University of Virginia
Dr. Marcus Martin Dr. Marcus Martin
UVA President Teresa Sullivan UVA President Teresa Sullivan

The University of Virginia and Charlottesville community are celebrating the day slavery ended in the city and Albemarle County.

Saturday, March 3, people commemorated Liberation and Freedom Day with a brief service at the UVA Rotunda, followed by a march. Charlottesville is currently one of the only cities in the commonwealth that celebrates this day.

“On March 3rd, 1865, 14,000 enslaved individuals in Charlottesville and Albemarle County were liberated right at the site of the chapel,” said UVA Diversity and Equity Vice President & Chief Officer Dr. Marcus Martin.

Those slaves made up more than half of the local population at that time.

“It's awesome to have the community and university members come together. We even have descendants of the enslaved that are here celebrating this day” Martin said.

Saturday's service included remarks from guests, a retelling of history, and a message for the community to continue moving forward.

“I want them to take away hope that just as the enslaved found hope in this day more than 150 years ago, we can find hope in such a day for ourselves as well,” said UVA President Teresa Sullivan.

Events continued with a march from the University of Virginia Chapel to the Jefferson school.

“I think continued efforts on behave of community and the university towards true meaning of liberation and freedom: increased numbers of minorities, particularly African-Americans who are employed at the University of Virginia,” said Martin.

Sullivan says the city and university have been grappling with the legacy of slavery. She believes there are still people resisting that effort: “They wanted to stop the progress that had been made, but I think the progress is more or less inevitable,” she said.

Organizers say a lot of progress has been made, but more needs to be done. The University of Virginia is hoping its memorial to slave laborers will be finished next year to add to the celebration.