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Charlottesville community members call for memorialization of former slave auction

Updated: Feb. 5, 2021 at 9:36 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - On Friday afternoon, the Charlottesville community remembered and spoke out about some of the city’s ugly past.

At a gathering on the corner of Park Street and East Jefferson Street near Court Square, a group recalled the auctioning of slaves on the same corner fewer than 200 years ago.

“Those slaves were my ancestors,” said Rev. Marvin Morgan, a pastor at Sojourners United Church in Charlottesville. “And to act as if it did not happen by refusing to pass that information on to another generation is unforgivable.”

Morgan was among dozens who called on the city to install a new marker detailing the “traumatic events.” It would replace a smaller placard in the ground, which was stolen by an activist last year.

A proposed sign at the site of a former Charlottesville slave auction block.
A proposed sign at the site of a former Charlottesville slave auction block.(WVIR)

“Placing it on the ground is like stepping on history in a way,” said Morgan.

Richard Parks, an activist, said having an eye-level marker would be important to educate the city’s visitors.

“Tourists come here all the time,” said Parks. “They come here for the whole ‘Jefferson mystique’ and all that. But they also, when they come, now read about the lynching of Henry James and, if there’s a marker there, they can read about that. So they can read the whole story instead of just part of the story.”

The new marker would be just steps away from the old site of a Confederate statue, which was removed in September by Albemarle County.

“I was so happy to see that,” Parks said “and I don’t see why the city just can’t follow along.”

These activists have asked the city to follow along and create a permanent marker, but no city officials were at Friday’s unveiling.

“We have tried in peaceful ways,” Morgan said. “I’m afraid our next option might be civil disobedience.”

While the activists say the calls to the city will continue, so will the remembrances. They say every Wednesday afternoon they will hold a silent prayer at ‘Zero Court Square.’

A sign and flowers on the ground at the site of a former Charlottesville slave auction block.
A sign and flowers on the ground at the site of a former Charlottesville slave auction block.(WVIR)

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