CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Charlottesville police are still piecing together what happened to the bronze slave auction block embedded inside Court Square.
The plaque marked where enslaved people were once sold downtown. The block was reportedly stolen on Thursday, February 6. In an exclusive interview with C-Ville Weekly, a 75-year-old Albemarle County man claimed responsibility, adding he threw the plaque into the James River.
So far, Charlottesville police have not confirmed the story or made any arrests in the case, leaving community members and area historians to draw their own conclusions.
“Unfortunately, this is, inadequate as it was, this slave auction block, it was really one of the only markers that we did have you know that was here,” said Jalane Schmidt, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia. Schmidt is also a respected public historian in the area, leading monthly tours of Court Square.
The slave auction block was dwarfed by other nearby historical markers, Schmidt added, citing a nearby Confederate statue, as well as a fountain where horses and small animals drank in the 19th century.
“We have more to say with our public markers here in Charlottesville about 19th century horses than we do about 19th century human beings who were enslaved here,” Schmidt said. “When you compare this tiny little slave auction block with the huge equestrian monuments that dominate our park, it’s completely out of proportion of course to the population.”
Other community members, including Ike Anderson, a Charlottesville resident, said he wishes the block was never taken. “Even though it wasn’t like seen as something good enough to this person, like that’s all we had that. That stated, you know, history."
In a Facebook post, community activist Tanesha Hudson supported the block’s removal, calling the block “disrespectful.”
The city of Charlottesville was looking to amplify the site of the auction block; however it was unable to award a contract for the expansion due to an ongoing lawsuit over the nearby confederate statues.
The city’s Historic Resources Committee is discussing potentially putting a plaque, or sign, on the lamppost sitting beside where the slave auction block was formerly placed. This matter will likely be discussed during the committee’s meeting on Friday, February 14.