( 0 Votes )

Emancipation Proclamation monument to join Confederate monument in Civil War Park

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors ended almost a year of debate by voting Wednesday night (Sept. 20) to place the county’s Emancipation Proclamation monument in Civil War Park in the village of Palmyra.

Determining the monument’s location has been a complicated process. Passionate feelings have infused the debate, though civility has prevailed.

Supervisor Mozell Booker, the Board’s only African American member, continually advocated for placing the monument in Civil War Park, which houses a monument to Confederate soldiers and until September 2015 was unofficially known as Confederate Park.

Others, including Chairman Mike Sheridan, have called for placing the monument somewhere at Pleasant Grove, the county’s expansive park that, at one time, was a slave-holding plantation.

Complicating the decision was an issue of legality. County Attorney Fred Payne, who is a plaintiff in the ongoing lawsuit to stop the Charlottesville City Council from removing the city’s Robert E. Lee statue, has invoked a Virginia law that prohibits “the placement of Union markings or monuments on previously designated Confederate memorials or the placement of Confederate markings or monuments on previously designated Union memorials.”

Payne has maintained that placing the Emancipation Proclamation monument at Civil War Park would violate Virginia code. Supervisors agreed last November to defer a decision to allow time for Booker to request an attorney general opinion on the matter. The requested opinion has not arrived.

Now – almost a year later – the Fluvanna Historical Society, which is creating the monument, informed supervisors that, in the absence of a decision, society members would place the monument at Maggie’s House, a historic home owned by the society in the village of Palmyra.

Supervisors approached their Sept. 20 meeting with the understanding that a decision needed to be made that evening.

Booker spoke first, calling for the monument to be placed at Civil War Park. “It is not a Union monument or a Southern monument,” she said, saying that it instead celebrates the ending of slavery. “The most appropriate place that I see is in the Civil War [Park] because it is about the Civil War.”

Supervisor Don Weaver, who initially supported placing the monument at Pleasant Grove, said that he agreed with Booker. “I think Civil War Park would be the best place, but I’m not going to get in an uproar like they have throughout this country over the situation,” he said. Putting the monument in Pleasant Grove would be introducing the issue into a new location, he said, whereas at Civil War Park the monument would fit in with its surroundings.

“I think it would be unlawful to put it there,” said Payne. “I think you would be risking being sued.”

“I don’t believe that,” said Booker.

“I can’t defend it,” Payne responded, referring to a potential lawsuit in which he, as county attorney, would need to defend the county.

“Okay, well, that’s fine,” said Booker.

Supervisor Tony O’Brien, who initially supported an alternate location for the monument, said he agreed with Booker. “People are now aware of, kind of, the hidden meaning that Mrs. Booker has referred to many times behind these Confederate statues,” he said. “I think it’s appropriate, in my opinion, to put the Emancipation Proclamation [monument] at the Civil War Park.”

O’Brien said he found it unlikely that a “significant uproar” would result from placing the monument in Civil War Park. “We’re representing the Civil War, not the Confederacy, not the Union, and we [will] now have two symbols of that in the park,” he said.

Sheridan reaffirmed his support for placing the monument at Pleasant Grove. “Pleasant Grove at that point in time was a slave-holding plantation, and that’s one of the places where [the proclamation] freed the slaves,” he said.

“I am conflicted with this,” said Supervisor Trish Eager. “I’d love to see it in Civil War Park but I don’t want to cause our county trouble later on.”

“I don’t think there’s going to be any uproar,” said Booker.

“We’re probably not risking an awful lot at this point in time, and maybe we’re adding to the dialogue in a positive way,” said O’Brien. “To me it feels right given everything that’s happened to put it in the [Civil War] Park.”

“We’re not saying, ‘Pull the Confederate statues down,’” said Booker. “We’re saying, ‘Add to it.’ We’re saying, ‘Let’s tell the whole story. Let’s provide good information.’”

She and O’Brien made the point that the General Assembly has plans this session to revisit its monument legislation.

Booker moved to place the Emancipation Proclamation monument at Civil War Park and O’Brien seconded her motion. Supervisors approved the motion 4-0-1, with Eager abstaining.

“I’m happy,” said Booker after the meeting. “I think it’s the right thing to do. I think it belongs there. I think it’s going to bring more to that park… It’s going to bring a different conversation… I think it’s more of bringing it together than being apart. I think it’s a unity thing.”

Plans for the memorial call for a 4-foot by 3-foot stone to be affixed with a brass plaque that reads a variant of: “To commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the American Civil War.”

In other matters:


  • Aaron Spitzer, director of parks and recreation, said that the recent Fluvanna County Fair brought between 6,000 and 7,500 visitors over its four-day stretch and netted $9,715. Fair proceeds yielded $22,753, and expenses, including advertising, music, lights and security, totaled $13,038.
  • Supervisors voted 3-2 to appoint Suzanne Cotellessa to the Rivanna District seat on the Planning Commission. Booker and O’Brien, Rivanna District supervisor, dissented.