Charlottesville 2017 Blog post by Suzanne Ferraro 

The reading of Charlottesville 2017 talked about High School ninth grader Zyhana Bryant petitioned her city council to remove the monumental statue of Robert E. Lee from one of the public parks. In 2016, Zyahna Bryant, a 16-year-old high-school student, was given an assignment asking her to describe something she could change. She started a petition to remove the statue of Lee. I thought it was thought-provoking that Wes Bellamy, the only African American on the city council, supported Bryant’s petition because of the association of white supremacy with the building of the statues. I learned from the reading that the City Council argued that Lee and Jackson’s statues are not war memorials but symbols of white supremacy in part because both monuments were erected in the 1920s, during the South’s Jim Crow era. In the reading of Charlottesville 2017, one side wanted to remove both of the statues because Lee led Confederate forces during the American Civil War, which the Confederacy fought between 1861 and 1865 in an attempt to maintain slavery. I thought it was thought-provoking that in the reading, Jackson rose to fame in the first years of the conflict before dying of pneumonia after being mistakenly shot by his men. Although the statue of Jackson statue was erected in 1921 and Lee in 1924, nearly 60 years after the War ended in the total defeat of the Confederacy, it was followed by an era of official racial segregation across southern states. Interestingly, both statues were taken down following the death of Heather Heyer, whom a white supremacist killed by running her down with his car on the street. I thought it was shocking that white supremacists came to protest the city council’s decision to remove both Confederate Robert E. Lee statues from the Emancipation Park, which was renamed and formerly Lee Park.

I thought in the second part of the reading History, Mine and Ours Charlottesville’s Blue Ribbon Commission and the Terror Attacks of August 2017 by John Edwin Mason was interesting that the City Council agreed with a recommendation made by the city’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials, and Public Spaces. Both of these statues memorialize more than a story. They reflected on the end of slavery, when white Charlottesville, like whites throughout the South, had successfully reinvented white supremacy in the form of Jim Crow segregation. I thought it was important that the reading mentioned black Charlottesville residents had no voice in the erection of the statues and were excluded from civic life in many other ways.

The reading mentioned the contrasting arguments that some people argued these statues were mere of military generals. However, the decision to remove them had meaning because the commission examined how and why the statues were erected. I thought it was interesting that they mentioned it wanted us to suggest ways that the city could use public spaces to address the historical practices that divided people into races. In the reading, I observed the decision to remove the statues and move beyond practices that had divided people, especially about race. Page 24 mentioned they wanted to honor the black community and its history. On page 25, at the beginning of the reading, referenced the Slave Auction Block, which is a symbol of the suffering of enslaved people of Charlottesville and Albemarle between 1820 and the 1860s. I thought it was interesting how it talks a lot about the statute’s misrepresentation of history and glorifies people who perpetuated slavery, attempted secession from the United States, and lost the Civil War.

The third part of the reading focused on white supremacists and the association of the rally, especially with antisemitism and the ideas of Hiter and the Nazis. It was interesting the fact that August 11 and 12 was the third major hate event in Charlottesville and at UVA in four months.

On page 153 of the reading, I thought it was important to note the association of the term “octoroon” with a UVA colleague, W.A. Plecker. The Virginia Assembly passed the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, and Plecker had to send instructions to officials on accurately reporting racial composition. This ties the University officials to a dark racial past.

In the last part of the reading, Race, Place, And the Social Responsibilities of UVA In the aftermath of August 11 and August 12. In the reading, I thought it was important to understand local politics with the recriminations about the management of the rally, including the counterprotest, the events, and the ongoing conversations about race, poverty, and inequality of students and people who attend UVA. I learned from the fact that UVA should acknowledge the memorialization of slavery during the Civil War and a history of white supremacy and segregation among people at UVA and in their communities. I agree with the focus on the impact on students and the community to bring about change and improve the community.

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