Theft of slave block plaque sparking discussions at UVA

Theft of slave block plaque sparking discussions at UVA

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The removal of a plaque marking the slave auction block in Charlottesville’s Court Square is sparking a discussion about the best way to acknowledge slavery.

Those conversations are happening on walking tours in the city and at the University of Virginia.

“I don’t think that the plaque in-and-of-itself is going to deter us from talking about that specific spot,” Jefferson School African American Heritage Center Executive Director Andrea Douglas said.

Douglas and the team that gives walking tours of Charlottesville through the African American Heritage Center say the marker for a slave auction block in the city is one part of a larger story.

That story, for now, includes monuments to Confederate soldiers.

“In one instance you’re prostrating the other one, you’re looking up and veneration. So whether you have this specific plaque there is almost irrelevant to the narrative that we’re trying to tell,” Douglas. “I think that one of the things that we are most clear about is that we are trying to articulate the facts of that place and the facts of that place is in that location slaves were bought and sold.”

Douglas says most markers for the story of enslaved people, and African Americans in general, are easy to miss. The plaque to enslaved workers at the University of Virginia Rotunda is another spot on a walking tour often stepped over, or stepped on.

Marker to enslaved workers at UVA
Marker to enslaved workers at UVA (Source: WVIR)

“Students who almost immediately walked over to it and really kind of objected to it as being insufficient, to really fully acknowledging the life and labor of thousands of enslaved people who built maintain the university for nearly 50 years," Assistant Dean of College Arts and Sciences / Co-chair UVA President’s Commission of Slavery Kirt von Daacke said.

UVA is constructing a memorial to enslaved laborers that includes many of the names of those who built the university.

Charlottesville’s Historic Resources Committee is now tasked with how to mark the auction block in Court Square.

“Right now, given the absence of a marker at that important spot, we’re going to look to them to give us their advice about new signage,” Charlottesville Spokesperson Brian Wheeler.

A dedication for the memorial at the University of Virginia is scheduled for April.

Douglas says a specific plan for what to say about the auction block marker on the Jefferson School’s walking tour has not been made yet.

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