Instead of celebrating Thomas Jefferson’s birthday as an official city holiday, Charlottesville, Virginia, will hold a day of recognition and remembrance for the emancipation of enslaved Black people.
The city council decided in a 4-1 vote Monday to scrap the city holiday celebrating Jefferson’s birthday every year on April 13, according to The Associated Press. The third president and author of the Declaration of Independence left a strong legacy in Charlottesville, where he founded the University of Virginia. He also owned slaves there.
Councilwoman Kathy Galvin was the only member to vote against the motion.
“Doing away with Thomas Jefferson’s birthday doesn’t do away with the history,” Galvin said, according to local outlet CBS19 News. “That birthday is still here. What he has done in the past is there.”
The new Freedom and Liberation Day will replace Jefferson’s birthday as a city holiday. It will be celebrated every year on March 3, the day slaves were officially emancipated in Charlottesville at the end of the Civil War in 1865. The decision to declare a new holiday passed in a separate, unanimous vote.
Charlottesville has been at the heart of debates over racism in the past few years. In 2017, the Southern city was host to the “Unite the Right” rally in which hundreds of white nationalists paraded through the city, ostensibly to protest the removal of a Confederate statue. A white supremacist who attended the rally killed counterprotester Heather Heyer and injured more than two dozen others when he drove his car into a crowd.
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