Two Charlottesville Women on Activist Wall Share Unique Bond
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A Monticello historian and a mental health advocate are two of the hundreds of community activists with their portraits on the side of the Violet Crown Theater. The two women share a bond formed over a unique connection.
Niya Bates is the director of African American history at Monticello. She spends every day working to tell the complete history of the enslaved community and their descendants.
When she saw her portrait on the community activist wall was next to Myra Anderson’s that moment was even more special. It was a surreal moment when Niya Bates found out her portrait would be featured on the community activist wall, honoring those fighting for social justice in Charlottesville.
"I was just kind of humbled to be asked to be a part of that," says Bates.
Right next to her portrait is Myra Anderson’s, president of Brave Souls on Fire, a mental health advocacy group.
"The aha moment for me was not just seeing my picture on the wall but just seeing this fabulous woman beside me that I know is doing great things," says Anderson.
Bates interviewed more than 200 descendants of the slaves Thomas Jefferson owned for her African American oral history project at Monticello.
"One of the biggest things that we are attempting to challenge is that slavery at Monticello equals Hemming's when there were a lot more families that were enslaved there,” says Bates.
Anderson and Bates were a part of the Charlottesville delegation that visited Winneba, Ghana in April 2018. Before the trip the two women had never met.
"When she said she was from Monticello I was like ding ding I’m going to introduce myself and see if she knows who I need to talk to there to get connected.” Anderson expressed.
Little did Bates know that Anderson is a descendant of one of the eight main enslaved families that lived at Monticello.
"It just gave me chills that we were 4,000 miles away from home and that’s where we made the connection of something here,” Anderson said.
The pair instantly formed a friendship.
"The timing was so perfect because they were just getting ready to have a very very big anniversary celebration for all of the descendants of the getting the word," says Anderson.
Bates and Anderson will continue to be side by side on the wall and in life.
"It directly works to the work that I do on a daily basis but also Myra is my friend and she's someone I’m really privileged to know in Charlottesville," Bates expressed.
Anderson and her mother now serve on the descendant’s advisory committee at Monticello.