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Charlottesville will observe holiday marking the end of slavery in place of Jefferson’s birthday in historic first

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The city of Charlottesville, Va., will celebrate a holiday commemorating the end of slavery this year instead of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday.

According to The Washington Post, Jefferson’s birthday had been recognized annually by the city for more than 70 years.

The move comes months after the local city council voted to drop the official holiday celebrating his birthday, April 13, in place of Liberation and Freedom Day on March 3, which marks the day in 1865 when Union troops emancipated slaves. 

Three of the council’s four members voted in favor of taking Jefferson’s birthday off the calendar.

Kathy Galvin, the only member of the council who opposed the swap last year, argued at the time, however, that “doing away with Thomas Jefferson’s birthday doesn’t do away with the history.”

“That birthday is still here. What he has done in the past is there,” she said.

Jefferson, one of the nation’s Founding Fathers and author of the Declaration of Independence, has long been a prominent figure in the area, having also founded the University of Virginia. But his past as a slave owner has proved to be a lasting stain on his legacy.

The holiday swap comes as the city continues to struggle with its racially divisive past, including the deadly “United the Right” rally held by white nationalists in the city in 2017 to protest a proposal to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Local attorney Charles L. Weber Jr., who is also reportedly a plaintiff on a suit that seeks to protect Confederate statues in the city, told the Post that “expunging” Jefferson “is not the right answer, just like taking the statues down is not the right answer.”

“I have a problem expunging Thomas Jefferson from our history,” Weber said.

Tags Charlottesville Slavery Thomas Jefferson

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