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Charlottesville swaps holiday celebrating Thomas Jefferson’s birthday for day observing emancipation of slaves

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The Charlottesville, Va., City Council voted Monday to swap out an official holiday celebrating Thomas Jefferson’s birthday for a day recognizing the emancipation of slaves.

April 13 will no longer honor Jefferson, the third president and author of the Declaration of Independence who owned slaves in Virginia, following a 4-1 vote, The Associated Press reported.

The council unanimously decided in a separate vote that Liberation and Freedom Day will be celebrated on March 3, the day U.S. Army forces arrived in 1865 and emancipated enslaved people at the end of the Civil War, according to the AP.{mosads}

Jefferson’s legacy is prominent in Charlottesville, where he founded the University of Virginia, CBS 19 News reported.

Kathy Galvin, the only council member who voted against eliminating the Jefferson holiday, pointed toward his contributions to the country and the area.

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

The city has been grappling with its history on race following the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in which hundreds of white nationalists descended on the city to protest the proposed removal of a Confederate statue.

The white nationalists used a statue of Jefferson on campus as a meeting point, chanting “Blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us,” according to The Washington Post.

The city council vote came days after an avowed neo-Nazi was sentenced to life in prison for ramming his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer. 

Tags Charlottesville Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally Civil War emancipation of slaves Thomas Jefferson Virginia

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