During its meeting Friday, February 14, the HRC went over short and long-term options for a raised plaque to mark the site where enslaved people were once sold in Charlottesville. Members agreed to draft a recommendation to City Council to construct and install a temporary marker in the now-empty spot.
“In the meantime I would like to see some sort of stop-gap measure, a temporary kind of thing, and I think we can do that,” HRC member Jalane Schmidt said during Friday’s meeting. “I would hope we can do it fairly quickly.”
The committee is hoping to present the recommendation for a temporary fixture to councilors Tuesday, February 18. The proposal will likely be addressed under “other business,” meaning City Council would be unable to vote on it until its next meeting in March.
City Manager Tarron Richardson directed HRC to look into interim solutions for the site while also considering a more comprehensive and expansive plan moving forward.
“This committee was asked to kind of weigh in on what can be done in the immediate term given some of the more recent events,” HRC member and City Councilor Heather Hill said.
The “recent events” refer to 74-year old Richard H. Allan III admitting he stole the bronze slave auction block from Court Square on Thursday, February 6. Police have charged Allan with two felonies: grand larceny and possession of burglary tools.
Community activist Tanesha Hudson wrote on Facebook supporting Allan’s actions, adding in an interview “the black community has mixed emotions about the slave block.”
“Honestly, I feel like if it was never taken, the discussions wouldn’t be happening,” Hudson said.
The move did act as a catalyst for the Historic Resources Committee. The city was working with the committee on re-developing the site of the slave auction block; however the plans were delayed due to ongoing litigation over nearby Confederate statues in two of the city’s public parks.
“[It] made it more of an immediate thing that needs to be addressed,” Hill said. “It had been discussed before, but there was definitely a desire to engage appropriate members from the public in that process.”
The committee was looking engage members of descendant families in that expansive project, and will now look to include them while discussing a temporary slave auction marker.
“We were on a course of trying to engage the descendant community in any further steps for that,” HRC member Genevieve Keller said.
Hudson is joined by other community members in weighing in on what they would like to see next.
“What good is it that the slave block is deep in the ground? You literally have to look down to see it,” Hudson said. “Lift it up as high as these Confederate monuments are up.”
Proposed plans for the temporary marker do include a raised fixture, or plaque. The committee is hoping to get it installed as soon as possible.
“A lot of this was prompted, because people felt like what was there wasn’t even sufficient enough. So to have nothing is taking a step backwards, and so I think there’s a lot of energy around having something that’s more prominent than what we had in the past,” Hill said.