First glimpse of enslaved laborers memorial
On July 16—just as we were sending last week’s issue to press—community members got to peek behind the construction fencing of the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at UVA, adjacent to the Rotunda and across the street from Bodo’s on the Corner.
Made of stone and 80 feet in diameter, the Freedom Ring, as it’s called, is a dual circle with a single opening, symbolizing a broken shackle. The opening is meant to invite people inside to gather on the small, round lawn for celebration, commemoration, or contemplation.
The Charlottesville community (including likely descendants of the people the memorial honors) had a say in the design. During a July 11 conversation at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, Mabel O. Wilson, design team member and architectural historian at Columbia University, said that folks insisted the memorial express some of the many dualities of the African American experience.
For example, the monument’s exterior wall, made from Virginia granite, is textured to evoke scarring—a symbol of both the terrible violence of slavery in the American South and ceremonial beautification practices honoring life achievements in some West African cultures.
It’s estimated that 5,000 enslaved people built and helped maintain the university before emancipation. The names of approximately 3,000 of them will be engraved in the polished stone on the inside of the ring. Memory markers that can be engraved at a later date will honor those whose identities are not yet recovered.
Construction on the monument began in January, and when it’s done in the fall, it will be the second memorial to African American history erected in Charlottesville this year. A marker commemorating the lynching of John Henry James was dedicated July 12 in Court Square. The plaque is part of an Equal Justice Initiative to make more visible the stories of racial terror throughout the United States.
And, the heritage center is fundraising for a third local monument to the African American experience: an abstract sculpture by Melvin Edwards memorializing Vinegar Hill.
C-VILLE and ACLU attorneys ask for suit dismissal
Attorneys representing C-VILLE Weekly, news editor Lisa Provence, and UVA professor Jalane Schmidt filed motions July 22 asking that a defamation lawsuit by Edward Dickinson Tayloe II be dismissed. Tayloe is a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the city and City Council for its votes to remove Confederate monuments, and he alleges an article in C-VILLE about the plaintiffs in the case defamed him “by implication.”
Schmidt, who is represented by the ACLU of Virginia, says in a statement, “As a public historian, being able to give accurate historical context regarding current events is crucial. That is why I am working with the ACLU to defend my right to free speech.”
The ACLU’s court filing says Tayloe “seeks to censor the opinion of those [who] question both his support for the Confederate statues and his motivations for defending them,” and that his suit sends “a clear message to others who wish to opine on matters of public concern” that if they disagree or critique him, they, too “will face the threat of a lawsuit.”
C-VILLE’s filing says, “Not a single fact in the article is alleged to be false.”
All defendants are asking the judge to award attorneys’ fees under Virginia’s SLAPP—strategic lawsuit against public participation—statute.
Quote of the week
“Send him back.” —Virginia House and Senate Democrats say they’ll boycott the 400th commemorative session in Jamestown on July 30 if President Trump attends
On July 19, a federal judge found three Rise Above Movement members from California guilty of violence they committed as part of their conspiracy to riot—but not for hate crimes—for incidents related to the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017. RAM leader Benjamin Daley was sentenced to 37 months, while Thomas Gillen and Michael Miselis received 33 and 27 months, respectively.
The board of the beleaguered Emergency Communications Center, whose director abruptly resigned in March and where the employees who handle 911 calls had complained about excessive overtime and serious understaffing, announced a new executive director July 18. Larry “Sonny” Saxton Jr. has 25 years in public safety in Missouri and will start August 26.
Former Charlottesville police chief Al Thomas, who resigned effective immediately in December 2017 following the events of August 12, continued to collect his $134,000 salary until July 15, NBC29 reports.
Mortimer Caplin, whose name adorns several facilities at UVA, died July 15 at 103. Caplin was a UVA law professor emeritus and taught 33 years at the law school. He served as IRS commissioner under JFK, and was the only chief tax collector to appear on the cover of Time magazine.
UVA basketball fans can keep the national championship thrill going with license plates proclaiming this year’s NCAA tournament win. The plates are limited editions, and the DMV says don’t wait around if you want one.