Inaugural Liberation and Freedom Day

As part of the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University’s continuing efforts, informed by restorative justice models, to connect with the broader community and create new shared rituals of atonement and remembrance, we were thrilled to participate in the creation of a new tradition–Liberation and Freedom Day. On March 3, 1865 (152 years ago), when Union troops entered Charlottesville at the end of the Civil War, meeting with city officials just northwest of the Rotunda (where the UVA chapel now sits), signaled the coming end of the war and the end of slavery. To commemorate that moment, the beginning of the general emancipation in Charlottesville, UVA and the City of Charlottesville have partnered to create an annual commemorative event.

This year’s event included an all faith church service at the UVA Chapel followed by a march from the chapel down West Main Street to the Jefferson School (now a community center and African American Heritage Center, but also the first freedman’s school in town and the Jim Crow-era high school).

Commission Co-Chair Dr. Marcus Martin spoke at the service: “As co-chair of the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University, I am thrilled to see Liberation and Freedom Day established and become an annual event. I can only imagine the bells of jubilation and joy in the hearts of so many enslaved who were finally free at last.”

For more on Liberation and Freedom Day, read this UVaToday story or this Daily Progress article. Newsplex TV coverage of the day also available.

For an image gallery that includes a photo of Dr. Martin carrying a “Let Freedom Ring” banner during the march, click here.

-Kirt von Daacke