Charlottesville Replaces Holiday Celebrating Jefferson’s Birthday With Celebration of Slaves’ Emancipation

Inside the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. (Photo: John Bilous/Dreamstime)

The city of Charlottesville, Va. will replace an official holiday marking the birth of Thomas Jefferson with a day that instead celebrates the emancipation of slaves at the conclusion of the Civil War.

The city council voted 4-1 Monday to do away with the April 13 celebration of Jefferson’s life and to replace it with “Liberation and Freedom Day,” which will commemorate the U.S. Army’s entry into the city on March 3, 1865, the Associated Press reported.

Violent clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters shook the city in August, 2017 and prompted a reexamination of its racial history. The legacy of Jefferson, who authored the Declaration of Independence, founded the University of Virginia, and owned slaves, has not escaped the scrutiny of activists and elected officials intent on highlighting the city’s struggles with racial reconciliation.

The majority of councilors members who voted in favor of replacing the holiday felt Jefferson’s legacy was on display throughout the city and the university campus and would not suffer from the loss of a holiday.

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“Thomas Jefferson already has 365 holidays and I do think that is the case here in Charlottesville,” councilor Bellamy, who voted in favor of the new holiday, previously said, according to the local CBS affiliate. “You literally can’t go anywhere within our city without hearing or seeing a reminder of Thomas Jefferson.”

Councilor Kathy Galvin, who cast the lone “no” vote, argued that Jefferson’s contribution to the city warranted the celebration of his birthday, and said the cancellation of the longstanding holiday constituted a futile attempt to disregard history.

“Doing away with Thomas Jefferson’s birthday doesn’t do away with the history,” said Galvin. “That birthday is still here. What he has done in the past is there.”

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