As Trump Predicted: Charlottesville Cancels Thomas Jefferson’s Birthday
The city of Charlottesville, Virginia, will no longer celebrate the birthday of Thomas Jefferson, the author of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, founder of the University of Virginia, and third president of the United States. The Associated Press reported Tuesday:
Charlottesville, Virginia, will no longer celebrate Thomas Jefferson’s birthday as an official city holiday and instead will observe a day recognizing the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans.
The city council voted Monday night to scrap the decades-old April 13 holiday honoring the slave-holding president and Founding Father. Charlottesville will now mark Liberation and Freedom Day on March 3, the day U.S. Army forces arrived in the city in 1865.
Charlottesville owes much of its contemporary prominence to the university, which still describes itself as “Jefferson’s Masterpiece.” Jefferson’s estate, Monticello, is also a major tourist attraction drawing visitors to the city.
In August 2017, riots broke out between neo-Nazis and Antifa in Charlottesville. The core issue was a dispute over the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from a local park.
The neo-Nazis and white supremacists hijacked legitimate protests against the statue’s removal, and Antifa mobs eclipsed peaceful protest against the racists and the statue. One of the peaceful protesters, Heather Heyer, was murdered by a neo-Nazi, who was sentenced to life in prison last week.
President Donald Trump came under criticism for his response to the riots, first because he did not specifically condemn the neo-Nazis in his initial statement, and later because he was misquoted by the mainstream media as referring to the neo-Nazis as “very fine people” (he had, in fact, said that they should be “condemned totally”).
In his press conference discussing Charlottesville, Trump had predicted that the effort to erase history would not stop with Confederate statues, but would eventually extend to Jefferson and George Washington (emphasis added):
Those people were also there, because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue Robert E. Lee. So – excuse me – and you take a look at some of the groups and you see, and you’d know it if you were honest reporters, which in many cases you’re not. Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. So this week, it’s Robert E. Lee, I noticed that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after. You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?
Oh no, George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down – excuse me. Are we going to take down, are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him? Okay, good. Are we going to take down his statue? He was a major slave owner. Are we going to take down his statue? You know what? It’s fine, you’re changing history, you’re changing culture, and you had people – and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally – but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people, but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats – you had a lot of bad people in the other group too.
Jefferson owned slaves, though he was philosophically opposed to slavery, and fathered at least six children with Sally Hemmings, one of his slaves.
South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is one of the more prominent Democratic Party candidates for president in 2020, has endorsed the removal of Jefferson’s name from public institutions — except for the Jefferson Memorial itself.
Jefferson died on July 4, 1826 — just hours before John Adams, who preceded him as president.