Sign of the times: Slave block commemorated

Charlottesville has a wealth of history, but not all of it is proud. At 00 Court Square, a new marker commemorates the site that once served as an 18th century slave block.

The marker made of a black composite material resembling granite with gold engraved text replaced a simpler slate marker with painted text put up by the Civic League of Charlottesville in the late 1960s.

"There wasn't much verbage," says Satyendra Huja, the city's director of strategic planning, of the original sign.

"It's a really big improvement," says Stefan Bechtel, a writer whose office overlooks Court Square. "I have often seen black tourists down here on the Square, and you can't help wondering what they thought to see a sign that just said 'Slave Block' with some date."

The new sign at 00 Court Square is one of six put up last month in and around Court Square. Each year, says Huja, City Council allocates funds for such signs which Huja estimates cost between $200 and $300. The text for each sign is researched and written by the city's volunteer Historic Resource Task Force.

With the $3.4 million overhaul of Court Square due to be completed by next fall, Huja says having historic markers is a chance to "communicate our history to outsiders."

After all, he adds, "There are few places where three American presidents walked around and did business."