In brief: New memorials, kayak commute, gaga for Wawa

The Court Square Historic Resources Subcommittee is considering inscribing enslaved woman Maria Perkins' letter on a new memorial. The Court Square Historic Resources Subcommittee is considering inscribing enslaved woman Maria Perkins’ letter on a new memorial.

Back to the drawing board

Three weeks after the Court Square slave auction plaque was stolen in the middle of the night, the hole left in the sidewalk has been bricked in, leaving little evidence that any memorial ever existed.

The city quickly removed unauthorized replacement plaques by local artist Richard Parks, but discussions are moving forward to install a temporary marker at the site, while a permanent memorial is being planned.  


The above plaque was stolen from Court Square on February 6.

The Court Square Markers Historic Resources Subcommittee has been guiding the city’s efforts to install more legible and accurate historic signs on the city-owned buildings around the square. The committee was not initially charged with addressing the slave auction block plaque.

A better memorial there “was on our work plan,” said committee member Genevieve Keller, but the theft of the plaque “has moved it up on the agenda.”

On Monday afternoon, the subcommittee invited local African American leaders and historians to give input on the new marker’s design. 

Everyone in the meeting agreed that the previous marker was woefully insufficient. “Everything else around there is big,” said Eddie Harris, parent educator at ReadyKids. “Just because [the history] is a little uncomfortable, it still has to be shown, in a big way.”

Installing a temporary marker is difficult—the marker has to be substantial enough to communicate serious emotional weight, but some at the meeting expressed concern that if the marker is too well-made, the city will be less likely to install a larger, more elaborate memorial down the road.

Security is a consideration, too. “I would urge this community to implore council that whatever structure is put up there be encased in some sort of glass,” said community activist Don Gathers. “Preferably bulletproof glass.”

The city’s initial suggestion, a waist-high obelisk with a plaque on the side, was rejected by subcommittee members and guests as not impressive enough. An idea that garnered more support was a six-foot-tall metal sign inscribed with the text from an 1852 letter written by Maria Perkins, an enslaved person whose family was splintered by sales in Charlottesville. 

The subcommittee hopes to consult a professional exhibit designer and solicit further community input before presenting a finalized proposal for a temporary memorial to City Council at its regular meeting on March 16.

The subcommittee is considering using the following text from the above letter as an inscription on a temporary replacement memorial:

“Dear Husband, I write you a letter to let you know of my distress. My master has sold Albert to a trader on monday court day and myself and other child for sale also…I want you to tell Dr Hamilton or your master if either will buy me they can attend to it now…I don’t want a trader to get me…A man by the name of Brady bought Albert and is gone I dont know where. They say he lives in Scottsville…Tell I am quite heart sick….I am and ever will be your kind wife, Maria Perkins.”


Quote of the Week

“Crimes like the Tessa Majors killing test the limits of forgiveness and redemption. But charging adolescents as adults makes the state crueler, not safer.”

The New York Times Editorial Board, on New York state’s decision to charge 14-year-old Rashaun Weaver as an adult for killing Tessa Majors


In Brief

Trail trial

On Monday, the Supreme Court heard arguments about whether the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will be allowed to cross the Appalachian Trail. A lower court’s ruling that the pipeline couldn’t pass under the trail was a setback for Dominion, but reports from the hearing in Washington suggest that the court’s five conservative justices, as well as Stephen Breyer, seem sympathetic to Dominion’s case. The court will deliver a final ruling in the summer. 

Sisterly love 

Ahead of its May trip to Winneba, Ghana, one of Charlottesville’s four sister cities, a local delegation is collecting backpacks, pens, pencils, markers, erasers, watercolor paints, notebooks, binders, sanitary pads, flip flops, and disposable diapers for the West African city’s schools. Donation can be left at Church of Our Savior on Rio Road.

F*ck cars

WillowTree is not waiting for Charlottesville Area Transit to expand its bus routes: The rapidly growing local tech company says it will provide its own 20-person buses for employees to get to work at its new headquarters in Woolen Mills, according to a report by the online news site Employees will also have access to kayaks for those who want to commute via the Rivanna.

Gaga for Wawa

Watch out Sheetz: Convenience store chain Wawa, a cult favorite in Philly and south Jersey, will open its first Charlottesville-area location in September at Proffit Road and Route 29. The company is in the midst of an initiative to open 40 stores in northern Virginia over the next 15 years. 

Updated 2/25 to reflect that the Wawa will not technically be located within Charlottesville city limits, 2/27 to correct Mr. Harris’ job title (he is a parent educator for the Real Dads program at ReadyKids, not the organization’s leader), and 2/27 to clarify that the Court Square Markers Historic Resources Subcommittee only has jurisdiction over city-owned property in Court Square.


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