STAB Students Start Petition to Better Recognize Vinegar Hill
All that’s left of an historic African-American neighborhood in Charlottesville is a small plaque near the Omni Hotel. Some local high school students want to change that.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - All that’s left of an historic African-American neighborhood in Charlottesville is a small plaque near the Omni Hotel. Some local high school students want to change that though.
Students in the issues of race, gender and social justice class at St. Anne's-Belfield take on some tough topics.
“We talked about the issues that really pervade our society today - gender inequality and racial inequality,” said Alex Ghaemmaghami, a senior at St. Anne’s-Belfield School.
That discussion led them to a neighborhood that only exists in Charlottesville memory. “We talk a lot in our humanities program about how things are remembered and the significance of lived and remembered history,” said Laura Robertson, the humanities department chair at STAB.
In the 1960s city voters approved a redevelopment of the predominantly African-American neighborhood Vinegar Hill.
“Especially in our town, in the arena of our town, it wasn't really spoken of,” said Olivia Vande Woude, a senior at STAB.
Ghaemmaghami says the story of a family forced out of the neighborhood made the past personal for him. “She was actually displaced, she was moved into public housing because her house was torn down,” said Ghaemmaghami.
Charlottesville’s only public tribute is a small plaque on the ground tucked away between a trash can and a planter near the Omni Hotel.
“That's really the sad part of it is that on the plaque it says ‘representing Vinegar Hill a lost and forgotten neighborhood’ and yet this very marker is lost in and of itself,” said Vande Woude.
So the students started a petition on change.org urging city council to put up a more noticeable marker. “We really wanted to raise recognition of this vibrant community that existed in Charlottesville,” said Ghaemmaghami.
Ghaemmaghami and his classmates are challenging the city to bring justice for Vinegar Hill.
“I think what's important for us is to not focus on what's happened before in regards to how that plaque may be disrespectful, but let's focus on changing it right now,” said Wes Bellamy, the vice mayor of Charlottesville.
The students hope the city will at the very least put up an interpretive sign with photos and history notes about Vinegar Hill.
City manager Maurice Jones says the Historic Resources Committee and Office of Human Rights are actually already working on establishing a new marker. It will be a large, two-paneled display showing Vinegar Hill's history.
The petition has more than 400 signatures so far. To read the petition please click here.