This is my second trip to Charlottesville, Virginia in recent months to work with teachers and the community on how to understand and teach the history and memory of its Confederate monuments. In June I co-led a tour and delivered a talk to a group of educators. Yesterday, I spent ninety minutes with a group of roughly twenty-five teachers at Charlottesville High School and today I will spend some time with another group of educators at the Jefferson School.
It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to return to my former home to do this work. I want to thank Dr. Andrea Douglas, who is the executive director of the Jefferson School and Dr. Jalane Schmidt of UVA for making this possible. Their commitment and passion is infectious. I have always maintained that regardless of whether the monuments are removed or relocated the city will find a way to move forward. Andrea and Jalane are committed to engaging as many residents of the city and county as possible.
Their efforts to commemorate the 1898 lynching of John Henry James over the summer is a wonderful example of how the most difficult history can be faced honestly and embraced as a way to bring people together.
The commemorative landscape here in Charlottesville is going to expand and deepen. A memorial to enslaved workers at the University of Virginia will be completed as well as a memorial for the historic black community at Vinegar Hill.
This is certainly a welcome development, but it will be incomplete without doing the hard work of bringing people together to talk through this difficult history and hopefully arrive at some understanding and common ground.
One thing is for certain, this community is in good hands.