As the sun began to set on March 1, more than 100 people gathered in front of the Albemarle County Courthouse. At an event coordinated by Beloved Community Cville and opened and closed by University of Virginia professor Jalane Schmidt and community organizer Don Gathers, the crowd traveled from the courthouse to three sites around Court Square where people were sold.

The event, along with one earlier in the day at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center that featured Bree Newsome and Zyahna Bryant, began eight days of commemoration for Liberation and Freedom.

March 3, which this year became a city holiday that replaced Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, marks when U.S. troops arrived in Charlottesville in 1865 and the emancipation of the area’s 14,000 slaves — 53.3% of the population — began.

 “We thought it would be important to reflect tonight on the experience of trauma, on who had the most to gain and to lose from Liberation and Freedom Day,” Schmidt said. “Before we get to Tuesday, the beginnings of emancipation, we first have to reflect on what happened here.”

Attendees moved from the courthouse to sites were slave auctions occurred: 300 Court Square, the former site of the Eagle Tavern; 0 Court Square, the Number Nothing building, the site of the slave auction block; and the site of the Swan Tavern, 300 Park Street. They then returned to the courthouse for a libation ceremony.

“We’re acknowledging and honoring the ancestors of our city and of our county. This solemn event is a reminder of the pain and trauma of an enslaved community who were the majority of area residents. Tonight, we descend to the depths of pain before we celebrate … the beginnings of emancipation.”

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    “This is where human beings were sold, from the steps of this courthouse,” Don Gathers said as he stood with Jalane Schmidt.

    Credit: Ézé Amos/Charlottesville Tomorrow

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    Eagle Tavern, which was at 300 Court Square, was the site of Thomas Jefferson’s estate sale in 1829. It included the sale of 33 people, the largest recorded sale of humans in Court Square. Myra Anderson, a sixth-generation descendant of the Hern family, who were enslaved at Monticello, recited the names of those sold. After Anderson spoke their names, including those of her ancestors, the Rev. Carolyn Dillard, of Zion Hill Baptist Church in Cismont, offered a prayer.

    Credit: Ézé Amos/Charlottesville Tomorrow

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    0 Court Square was the site of Charlottesville's slave auction block. A plaque noting that was embedded in the sidewalk until Richard Allan in February removed it because he said its placement on the ground was insulting and that he hoped it spurred the city into building a more suitable memorial, which has been under discussion since 2016.

    Credit: Ézé Amos/Charlottesville Tomorrow

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    A photograph of the removed slave auction block plaque has been placed on its site. Flowers and the number 1619 have been placed near the auction block for several weeks. 1619 is the year the slave ship White Lion landed at what is now Fort Monroe in Hampton, marking the beginning of slavery in British America.

    Credit: Ézé Amos/Charlottesville Tomorrow

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    In front of the Number Nothing building, a recording of centenarian Fountain Hughes was played. He was born a slave, and his grandfather belonged to Thomas Jefferson. Afterward, the Rev. Xavier Jackson, of Chapman Grove Baptist Church, sang.

    Credit: Ézé Amos/Charlottesville Tomorrow

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    At the site of the Swan Tavern, Colleen Yates, a descendant of Sally Heming’s sister, on March 1 reads an 1852 letter by Maria Perkins to her husband that implored him to ask his master to purchase her and the remainder of their children. After the reading of the letter, the Apostle Sarah Kelley, of Faith, Hope and Love Church of Deliverance, sang.

    Credit: Ézé Amos/Charlottesville Tomorrow

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    Myra Anderson, a sixth-generation descendant of the Hern family, who were enslaved at Monticello, pours a libation on March 1 at the Albemarle County Courthouse as as the Rev. Brenda Brown-Grooms, of New Beginnings Christian Community, sang. “It’s important because it speaks of people who lost their names into slavery and who gained a faith in the God who we knew before we came to these shores," Brown-Grooms said before singing "I told Jesus it would be all right if you changed my name.”

    Credit: Ézé Amos/Charlottesville Tomorrow