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Some Highlights in Charlottesville Racial History

Highlights of Charlottesville’s Racial History

1762. Charlottesville is founded in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a slave state.

1776. Thomas Jefferson writes the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson is a slaveholder and Virginia resident whose plantation, Monticello, looks down over Charlottesville. The text of the declaration includes the sentence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

1826. After Thomas Jefferson’s death, his slave, Sally Hemings and her two sons, Eston and Madison, move from Monticello to Charlottesville. Likely fathered by Jefferson, Eston and Madison were the only two slaves Jefferson freed on his death.

1865. Union troops arrive in Charlottesville on March 3 and free 13,000 enslaved people, a day now celebrated as Liberation and Freedom Day.

1865. The Freedman School is founded, the precursor to the Jefferson School.

1869. The first African Americans are elected to Virginia General Assembly, as Republicans.

1896. In Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of racial segregation, as long as facilities for Blacks are “separate but equal.”

1898. John Henry James is lynched in Albemarle County, Va.

1902. The new Virginia state constitution disenfranchises Blacks.

1917. The City of Charlottesville razes McKee Row, an African American neighborhood, to create Jackson Park, named for Confederate Gen. Thomas Johnson “Stonewall” Jackson.

1921. An equestrian statue of Stonewall Jackson, paid for by Charlottesville philanthropist Paul McIntire, is installed in Jackson Park.

1921. The local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan is founded at Monticello and meets in the Albemarle County courthouse next to the Jackson statue.

1924. An equestrian statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is paid for by Paul McIntire and installed in Charlottesville’s Lee Park, a few blocks away from Jackson Park.

1926. The Jefferson School, a high school for Black students, is founded in downtown Charlottesville.

1950. Gregory Swanson is the first African American student admitted to the University of Virginia, to its graduate School of Law.

1951. Students in nearby Farmville, Va., stage a strike to protest conditions in Robert Russa Moton High School. The lawsuit stemming from the students’ protest in Farmville is one of five lawsuits rolled into the Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark desegregation case.

1954. The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Brown v. Board of Education that the concept of “separate but equal,” upheld by Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, is unconstitutional and that public schools must be integrated.

1955 . Robert Bland is the first African American undergraduate student admitted to the University of Virginia, to its School of Engineering and Applied Science.

1956. U.S. Sen. Harry F. Byrd, Sr., D-Va, calls for “massive resistance,” a strategy designed to prevent integration of public schools in Virginia.

1958. Public schools in Charlottesville, along with those in Norfolk and Warren County, close in September to prevent integration.

1959. Public schools in Charlottesville reopen, integrated, in January.

1960. A Charlottesville referendum (in which few Blacks can vote) elects to tear down the Black neighborhood of “Vinegar Hill” for redevelopment.

1963. Martin Luther King Jr. gives a talk on civil rights at the University of Virginia.

1964. Beginning of teardown of Vinegar Hill. By March 1965, one church, 30 businesses, and 158 families—140 of which were black—had been relocated.

1964. The federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 is passed, outlawing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

1965. The City of Charlottesville razes a significant African American neighborhood, Vinegar Hill, in the name of urban renewal, but the area sits empty for years afterward, undeveloped.

1990. L. Douglas Wilder becomes the first African American elected governor of Virginia, or of any other state.

1990. The Rev. Alvin Edwards is elected the first African American mayor of Charlottesville.

2017. Charlottesville City Council votes on February 6 to remove General Lee statue.

2016. High school freshman Zyahna Bryant starts petition in March to take down General Lee statue from Lee Park.

2017. A March 20 lawsuit halts the city’s plans to remove the General Lee statue. The case is scheduled for trial in Fall 2018.

2017. National Alt-Right figures hold May 13th torch rally at downtown statue of General Lee, sparking outcry.

2017. Charlottesville City Council votes on June 5 to rename Lee Park as Emancipation Park and to rename Jackson Park as Justice Park.

2017. Ku Klux Klan holds 50-person rally on July 8 beside downtown statue of General “Stonewall” Jackson; 1,000 counter-demonstrators protests; police arrest civil disobedience activists and tear gas crowd, sparking outrage.

2017. Hundreds of white supremacists hold a nighttime torch rally on the Grounds of the University of Virginia on August 11.

2017. White supremacists hold a violent demonstration in Charlottesville on August 12, resulting in three deaths: Heather Heyer, a civil rights activist; Berke Bates, a Virginia State Police helicopter pilot; and H. J. Cullen, a state police officer.

2017. Charlottesville City Council votes unanimously on August 21 to cover both statues in mourning shrouds as a response to the three deaths on August 12.

2017. Charlottesville City Council votes unanimously on September 6 to remove the General Stonewall Jackson statue.

2017. Nikuyah Walker is elected the first female African American mayor of Charlottesville on November 7.

2018. Judge rules on February 27 that mourning shrouds must be removed from both statues.

DMU Timestamp: July 13, 2018 16:17





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