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Charlottesville replaces Thomas Jefferson birthday celebration with holiday recognizing slave emancipation

Jefferson's legacy takes another hit

Exterior of University of Virginia with statue of Thomas Jefferson, Charlottesville, VA (Photo by: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

With the city still feeling the after-effects of the violent Unite the Right rally in 2017, the Charlottesville, Virginia, city council voted Monday to discontinue its annual celebration of Thomas Jefferson's birthday, according to the Associated Press.

Instead, the city will replace the April 13 holiday with a March 3 holiday to recognize the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans, calling it "Liberation and Freedom Day."

March 3 "commemorates that day in 1865 when Gen. Phillip Sheridan's troops rolled through town and found a population that was majority African American—and although emancipation for most of them probably didn't occur on that day, it was the opening salvo for a lot of Charlottesvillians' freedom," according to Hawes Spencer, a reporter from Charlottesville.

The elimination of Jefferson's holiday is notable for the city, as the founding father and author of the Declaration of Independence founded the University of Virginia, which is located in Charlottesville.

Although Jefferson holds an esteemed and essential place in American history, public sentiment has increasingly turned against public recognition of historical figures who owned slaves or who fought for the Confederate States of America in the Civil War.

In Charlottesville in 2017, much of the conflict during the protests centered on whether or not Confederate monuments should be removed from public display.

The city council voted 4-1 to eliminate the Jefferson celebration.

"Thomas Jefferson already has 365 holidays and I do think that is the case here in Charlottesville," said councilman Wes Bellamy, according to WHSV-TV. "You literally can't go anywhere within our city without hearing or seeing a reminder of Thomas Jefferson."

"Doing away with Thomas Jefferson's birthday doesn't do away with the history," another councilor, Kathy Galvin, said. Galvin was the only "no" vote. "That birthday is still here. What he has done in the past is there."

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