Charlottesville is considering removing the celebration of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday as a city holiday.
At Monday’s City Council meeting, Mayor Nikuyah Walker proposed eliminating the April observance and replacing it with Liberation and Freedom Day in March.
Jefferson’s birthday is April 13 and the city designates the closest working day as a paid holiday. This year, it was observed on April 12.
Liberation and Freedom Day celebrates the emancipation of slaves in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. This year, it was celebrated on the first weekend of March.
Albemarle County observes Jefferson’s birthday as a holiday while the University of Virginia does not. UVa does, however, hold Founder’s Day events around the date.
Walker didn’t expand on the reasoning for her proposal or return a request for comment on Tuesday. Councilors Mike Signer, Kathy Galvin and Heather Hill either didn’t return requests or declined comment on Tuesday.
Councilor Wes Bellamy said he is “proud” of Walker for the proposal.
“I think it’s a conversation that we definitely as a city need to have,” he said on Tuesday.
Bellamy said that although Jefferson is a Founding Father, he was a slaveowner. Bellamy also highlighted that Jefferson “raped Sally Hemings,” who was one of Jefferson’s slaves.
Hemings is widely acknowledged to be the mother of six of Jefferson’s children.
City Attorney John Blair said the proposal could likely be approved through revising the ordinance that dictates the city’s holiday observances.
Blair plans to bring the item before council at its June 17 or July 1 meeting.