‘Why I did it:’ County resident confesses to taking slave auction block

Richard Allan says he removed the slave auction block marker at Court Square on February 6. Richard Allan says he removed the slave auction block marker at Court Square on February 6.

Albemarle County resident Richard Allan, an amateur local historian and longtime environmental activist, has admitted to taking the bronze slave auction block marker from Court Square in the early morning hours of February 6. Charlottesville police would not confirm whether Allan was in custody.

“I did not remove the metal slave plaque in the ground…with the intention to offend anyone in our great town or our historic county,” Allan told C-VILLE in an exclusive interview before an acquaintance turned him in to the police. “I want it to be clear that there was no harm intended.”

Allan, 75, says he found the plaque’s placement in the sidewalk to be insulting, and that he acted after years of frustration that nothing was done to create a more fitting tribute to the enslaved laborers who built much of Charlottesville.

Noting that his family had a history of owning slaves along the Gulf Coast, he said, “Out of respect to the enslaved persons in my own family’s personal history; out of awareness that down the generations I have inherited money that should have been paid in wages to those people… I removed the insulting plaque and have ensured that it will not be recovered.”

Allan implied that he had disposed of the plaque in the James River, but would not say exactly where. “I don’t want the damn thing recovered,” he says.

Allan first became concerned about the issue in 2014, in response to a letter in The Daily Progress from local civil rights icon Eugene Williams. Williams criticized the removal of a historic marker on Number 0, Court Square, identifying it as the site of a former slave auction block, and its replacement with the “unobtrusive marker set into the sidewalk” along with a dark marble marker on black history that was “difficult to see, let alone read.”

Allan says he met with Williams, who told him he was the only person to respond to his letter, and talked with many others. “It became very clear to me that, for many in Charlottesville, it is the height of insult to place the history of Charlottesville enslavement on the ground where people with dirt on their shoes can stand upon it,” he says.

After those conversations, he wrote his own piece expressing “deep concerns” about the removal of the gray slate marker and its replacement with the sidewalk plaque. “I reported  these concerns and my article to the city’s Preservation Committee, and was told changes would be made soon,” Allan says. “That was five and one-half years ago. No changes were ever made.”

Allan says he had long thought about removing the plaque himself, and knew it should be done on a rainy night, when no one would be on the streets. So this week, he says, “on a rainy night when I could not get to sleep, because of feelings of sadness and disgust, I found myself doing what I had been considering for over two years.”

He headed to Court Square at about 2:45am, he says, and used a wonder bar and a kitchen knife to pry up the marker. “It took about 15 minutes,” he says.

Allan says he had contacted City Council about the issue in November, and received a response from then-vice-mayor Heather Hill thanking him and letting him know that the council was looking into doing something about the marker. “Two and a half months have elapsed,” Allan says. “Again, no action,”

“I absolutely believed…that nothing would be done on this issue for a number of years, and that something had to be done,” he says.

“I deeply apologize if removing a metal plaque that people can stand on with dirt on their shoes offends any citizen of our county,” he adds.

“I’m not the story,” he concludes. “Eugene Williams’ letter is the story. I’m just a person who feels passionately about this.”


Updated 2/8 with additional information from Allan. C-VILLE will continue to follow this story including in our print edition Feb. 12.

 

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mememe
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mememe

Bravo! One Charlottesvillian who is not afraid to stand up to the many racists and Neonazis in this town.

oh please
Guest
oh please

you’ve got to be kidding

bill baily
Guest
bill baily

racists didn’t plant that plaque the socialist did.

really?
Guest
really?

And then a racist came in the night and removed and destroyed it.

Billy Bob
Guest
Billy Bob

He is not a racist. YOU are!

Darryl
Guest
Darryl

Salute to you Sir Thank you❤

really?
Guest
really?

You mean stand up to the truth and what really? transpired on that auction block. More efforts to hide the truth because the old white man can’t live with his guilt…

Lee Russom
Guest
Lee Russom

Do you believe Blacks feel guilty, or should feel guilty for the slaughter their ancestors committed against rival tribes?

Russ
Guest
Russ

The government of Ghana has issued a formal apology for its role in the transatlantic slave trade.

Lee Russom
Guest
Lee Russom

Slave trade/intra-rival warfare. Two separate issues.
Your reply does not answer my query.

Tony Joop
Guest
Tony Joop

A felony is a felony, regardless of intentions. I believe it’s referred to as “self help” in the eyes of the law. Lock him up.

Lee Russom
Guest
Lee Russom

Isnt that what Nancy et al have been saying, that no one is above the law?

Lee Yancey
Guest
Lee Yancey

No.

bill baily
Guest
bill baily

Here is where this morons argument about how it is “offensive for people to walk on it” as a justification for DESTROYING IT…breaks down. It was his fellow social justice warriors who dreamed up that monument and had it put there in the first place. This was not some evil plot by white supremicists to demean history by placing this plaque in the ground. We want this guy to be arrested and booked on a felony. Anything less means the prosecutor is letting him get away with a FELONY.

really?
Guest
really?

I guarantee it was a white person or white persons who made the choice to put the plaque in the sidewalk.

Lee Russom
Guest
Lee Russom

They were still bleeding heart, self-hating gliberals.

really?
Guest
really?

WHITE GUILT

really?
Guest
really?

The real story is why he was so insulted by the plaque. Why the truth kept him up at night and ultimately compelled him to move to hide the truth.

Tony Joop
Guest
Tony Joop

You answered your own question before you even asked it.

really?
Guest
really?

The answer to the question being WHITE GUILT?

John
Guest
John

I don’t think his intention was to hide the truth, but rather to bring awareness of the lack of recognization of the sacrifices slaves made in that period. There are gigantic monuments honoring General Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson, but only a tiny bronze block marker that people walk past or on while heading to the downtown mall.

Melanie Turner
Guest
Melanie Turner

I think he might agree with your not wanting to hide the truth. From reading more about why he did it, I think he was bothered by the insignificance and insult of a plaque people could step on and felt the spot—and the people whose lives were forever changed by it—deserved more than just that plaque.

His actions were not to hide a wrong, but to call attention to it, and possibly convince a city to act on it.

Elizabeth Nisos
Member
Elizabeth Nisos

Thank you for this well written article, with clear, forthright details. I have been living here in the area of our beautiful Charlottesville for 39 years, have walked on those streets around Court Square and have never seen that plaque. I thoroughly agree that something much more respectful must be done to recognize and designate where Humans were sold…… with that definite distinction and with honor to the many peoples that were brought here against their will, sold and served on so many levels throughout the years as this country was beginning.

really?
Guest
really?

Oh yea I’m sure the authorities have treated the old white man the same as they would a young black man who had done the same… Chyeah

Tony Joop
Guest
Tony Joop

The same could be asked about the two gentlemen who were removing the illegal tarps from the war memorials. They did time for it.

really?
Guest
really?

So he was so bothered by the plaque being on the ground that he removed it illegaly under cover of darkness then destroyed it. Has he done anything to better honor those bought and sold on the site? NO he just carried out a cowardly crime of removing a plaque that states the truth. Arrest him.

Citizen
Guest
Citizen

I invite those who want to understand the sentiment in this man’s heart, innocent or guilty of a felony, to read Colson Whitehead’s, The Underground Railroad. It will change you.

Hmmm...
Guest
Hmmm...

I was really hoping that it was not him.

Paul
Guest
Paul

I admire his willimgness to pursue righting an injustice that he perceived. It is unfortunate that the city was unresponsivle to an issue that has caused such pain for so many, for so long.

Loki
Guest
Loki

This is PEAK Cville LOL

cabell coward
Guest
cabell coward

https://www2.virginia.edu/slaverymemorial/
let’s join with the University by erecting a memorial of the enslaved that built the buildings at UVA as well as Court Square

Tywana
Guest
Tywana

How can i contact him?

Lee Yancey
Guest
Lee Yancey

Absolutly nothing should happen to this courageous man.
Bravo to him. And I’m a Black Man.

Ruth
Guest
Ruth

I know this man as a solid citizen/veteran who aims to support injustice wherever he sees it.

M Turner
Guest
M Turner

This is a good, good human being. Thank you for doing right.