March 3 has officially been declared Liberation and Freedom Day in Charlottesville, Virginia. The holiday commemorates the day enslaved African people in Charlottesville were freed by the Union Cavalry at the end of the Civil War in 1865. 

Prior to this April, Thomas Jefferson’s birthday was an official city holiday. According to the National Review, the City Council voted 4-1 to “do away” with the Jefferson holiday. The city will now officially recognize the liberation of enslaved African people instead. 

Mayor Nikuyah Walker first made the suggestions to establish Liberation and Freedom Day in June. City Councilmember Wes Bellamy responded by saying, "It’s a conversation we definitely need as a city." The move to eliminate Jefferson falls in line with the city's recent moves to end holidays commemorating Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. More recently, Mayor Walker moved to hold a city-wide Juneteenth celebration. Going forward, Mayor Walker looks to continue the trend of honoring underrepresented communities and eliminating holidays that honor those who enslaved others. 

Thomas Jefferson’s legacy has always been controversial among Black and Brown communities. According to monticello.org, Jefferson enslaved over 600 people throughout his lifetime. In his Notes on the State of Virginia, he wrote of how he believed Black people to be inferior to white people. 


As previously reported by Blavity, Charlottesville is the same city where a large group of torch-carrying white nationalists gathered at The University of Virginia campus for their “Unite The Right” rally in 2017.

Despite the history of racism that plagues Charlottesville, the city council is moving forward in their decision to recognize the enslaved African people who helped to build the city. 

“Having March 3rd be a designated holiday in the city will be a big step towards more accurately presenting the history of Charlottesville and recognizing the importance and value of the black residents who made up the majority of the population in the city and county at the time of the Civil War” said Ben Doherty of the University of Virginia School of Law.