Washington (AFP) – Thomas Jefferson’s home town of Charlottesville, Virginia will no longer mark the birthday of the author of the US Declaration of Independence as a paid holiday, local media reported Tuesday.
Instead the Charlottesville city council voted 4-1 late Monday to replace it with a holiday commemorating the city’s liberation by the Union army at the end of the US Civil War, local media reported.
There was no immediate explanation for the move from the authority but the snub of Charlottesville’s most famous son comes as it undergoes a reappraisal of its traditions in the wake of the 2017 white supremacist rally that ended in the death of a young woman.
The “Unite the Right” rally was called ostensibly to oppose the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from a Charlottesville park.
But it made Charlottesville a symbol of a seemingly emboldened white supremacist movement under US President Donald Trump, who blamed “many sides” for the violence.
James Alex Fields Jr, a 22-year-old neo-Nazi, was sentenced to life in prison on Friday on federal hate crimes charges for driving a car into a crowd of counter-protesters after the rally, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
He is being sentenced separately later in the month on a state charge of first degree murder.
Jefferson, whose hilltop home Monticello overlooks Charlottesville, was the third US president and principal author of the Declaration of Independence, for many the embodiment of American ideals of freedom and equality.
But his exalted historical status has been the subject of revision in recent years, with much of the criticism centering on the contradiction between those ideals and his ownership of hundreds of slaves.
Jefferson’s birthday — April 13, 1743 — is not a US national holiday, although it is celebrated as paid holiday by the city, which is home to the Jefferson-founded and designed University of Virginia.