Loudoun Supervisors Approve Funding For Slave Memorial

By Jonathan Hunley

Leesburg Today

Sept. 3, 2015

The statue of a Confederate soldier at the Loudoun County courthouse could be getting some company in the future, which probably pleases Pastor Michelle Thomas.
“He seems lonely,” Thomas, who leads Holy & Whole Life Changing Ministries International in Lansdowne, said Wednesday night about the statue.

"He seems lonely," said Michelle Thomas, pastor of Holy and Whole Life Changing Ministries International in Lansdowne.

“He seems lonely,” said Michelle Thomas, pastor of Holy and Whole Life Changing Ministries International in Lansdowne.

Thomas was one of six speakers who urged Loudoun’s Board of Supervisors to support memorializing slaves sold at the courthouse and county residents who fought for the Union in the Civil War.
And the supervisors obliged, voting 7-0-1-1 to allocate $50,000 to help with the cost of placing a memorial on the courthouse grounds in Leesburg.
The move came at the recommendation of county Chairman Scott K. York (R-At Large), who attended a July rally held by the NAACP’s Loudoun Branch in which the organization pushed for monuments for the slaves and Union forces and also to recognize that the courthouse is a registered National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom historical site.
The $50,000 the supervisors approved is to be donated only after other fundraising for the memorial is complete, a process that mimics the rules for a similar donation the county pledged toward the creation of a Revolutionary War statue, which will be placed at the courthouse in November.
Part of the allocation also could be used for an initial effort to ask the Virginia Board of Historic Resources to approve the placing of a state historical marker at the courthouse noting the Underground Railroad recognition. Work to secure that commemoration can be done a lot faster than what’s necessary for a more complicated monument, Phillip Thompson, the Loudoun NAACP branch’s president, said recently.
Talk about courthouse memorials began after the June 17 racially motivated killings in Charleston, SC, which prompted discussion of Confederate symbols, including the Confederate soldier statue in Leesburg.
That statue relates part of Loudoun’s Civil War heritage. But Donna Bohanon, who chairs the Black History Committee of the Friends of Thomas Balch Library, told the supervisors Wednesday that there are other portions of history that deserve to be told.
“This type of memorial is long overdue,” she said of the proposed monument.
Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) spoke of honoring history, as well. But he noted that not everything in the past was rosy.
“Make no mistake: Loudoun was a slave-holding county,” Higgins said.
Supervisor Kenneth D. Reid (R-Leesburg) abstained from the vote on the memorial donation, saying he was concerned that $50,000 wasn’t enough of a contribution for the county government to make. Board Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) was absent from Wednesday’s meeting because he was on a business trip.

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Loudoun County Real Estate Tax Bill: $67

While everyone in Loudoun County pays the same real estate tax rate, not everyone pays taxes on 100% of the value of their property. Some property owners apply to have their real estate taxes deferred under programs that set aside some of their tax exposure: categories such as Agricultural or Forestal District, Historic District, Permanent Open Space Easement, Land Use Assessment, Tax Relief for the Elderly or Disabled, or Affordable Dwelling Unit among them.

In 2011, the Loudoun County real estate tax bill on this 145-acre property in Hamilton were $67.

In 2011, the Loudoun County real estate tax bill on this 145-acre property in Hamilton was $67.

In 2011, Loudoun County assessed the fair market value of this vacant 145-acre property in Hamilton at $1,323,500. The tax bill that year was $66.43. This year, the same property was again assessed at fair market value at $1,323,500, but the tax bill at the current tax rate of $1.135 per $100 of value is $514.40. The property is protected with an open space easement. What changed?

Another home located on Market Street in Leesburg is assessed at $1,111,640 this year. The owners’ 2015 tax bill is $12,617.11, a multiple some 25x times what the landowners in Hamilton pay.  As a Loudoun County taxpayer, do you think the value of developable vacant land in Hamilton  is worth just 1/25 of the value of a house on Market Street in Leesburg for tax purposes?

This spread sheet breaks out total numbers for taxable and exempt properties. Countywide, there are 126,277 taxable properties and 1,245 that are exempt:


Election year is a good time to ask candidates for chairman of the Board of Supervisors how they feel about real estate taxes — these pay for public schools. To provide full day kindergarten in Loudoun County, the county needs much more tax revenue to pay for it. That contends with programs that reduce taxes for some classes of land, and some groups of property owners.

Before you vote on Nov. 3, ask Board of Supervisors Chairman candidates Tom Bellanca, Charlie King, Phyllis Randall, and incumbent Scott York how they feel about special tax programs. Ask for a breakout showing how many properties, in which magisterial districts, enjoy how much in reduced taxes. Ask what it costs Loudoun County.








Posted in Ashburn Supervisor Ralph Buona, BOS Chairman Scott York, J. Scott Littner, Loudoun Board of Equalization, Loudoun Board of Supervisors, Loudoun Circuit Court, Loudoun Journalism, Va. Del. Randy Minchew, Virginia Ethics Commission, Virginia FOIA, You pay so they don't have to. | 1 Comment

‘Tell the story, but tell it all.’

Scott York, chairman of the Loudoun Board of Supervisors, takes notes as Pastor Michelle Thomas talks about hopes for the Loudoun Freedom Center, to depict the lives of slaves in the county.

Scott York, chairman of the Loudoun Board of Supervisors, takes notes as Thomas speaks about the desecration of a slave cemetery in Lansdowne. Charles King, at left, and two others are running to defeat York’s reelection.

The Rev. Michelle Thomas, pastor of Holy and Whole Life Changing Ministry International, speaks how a slave cemetery was desecrated in Lansdowne.

The Rev. Michelle Thomas, pastor of Holy and Whole Life Changing Ministries International, said she hopes formation of the proposed Loudoun Freedom Center will honor the lost lives of 42 slaves on the grounds of the former Coton  Plantaion, remember their names, and research their genealogy.

The crowd gathered in front of the Loudoun County courthouse in Leesburg on July 18 listened attentively to speakers at a rally sponsored by the Loudoun NAACP.

A crowd gathered on the Loudoun County courthouse lawn on July 18 for a rally sponsored by the Loudoun NAACP. Early morning rain could have discouraged attendance. Estimates of crowd size ranged from 50 to 100 at the courthouse, with 10 or fewer gathered around a statue of a confederate soldier.

The Leesburg Town Council could vote as soon as Tuesday, July 28, whether to approve Loudoun County’s request to demolish four historic buildings on Edwards Ferry Road to clear the site for a huge new courts complex.

Loudoun County officials have threatened to move their government offices to Ashburn if the council turns down an appeal filed after Leesburg’s Board of Architectural Review (BAR) denied the county’s demolition request in May.

Leesburg Mayor Kristen Umstattd, also a candidate for the town’s seat on the Loudoun Board of Supervisors, and one other council member said they will vote to raze the buildings to keep the government and its business downtown. Amid charges that county officials are bullying them into a “yes” vote, other council members on July 14 delayed a vote, saying they need more information.

County officials threatened to move government offices to Sycolin Road outside downtown Leesburg or to undeveloped property next to Metro’s planned Ashburn station, the last stop on the Silver Line. After several delays, the line’s arrival has been delayed to 2019. The Leesburg council could wait until late August for a final vote.

Loudoun County is struggling for its racial dignity after the recent disclosure that 42 slave graves in Lansdowne were destroyed in the late 1990s to build amenities for a community center, designed in the shape of a dairy barn, on the site of the old Coton plantation. Slaves powered Loudoun’s agrarian economy before the Civil War. Another slave burial ground, at the former Belmont plantation on the opposide side of Route 7 from Lansdowne, is unmarked but mostly intact, according to Loudoun historians.

On July 18, a small, mostly white crowd on the Loudoun Courthouse lawn protested the presence of a Civil War statue of a lone confederate soldier as five people displayed confederate flags at its base.  That display is silent about the history of slaves who were sold, and allegedly sometimes lynched, on the courthouse grounds in the 18th Century. The Loudoun NAACP has asked  the courthouse display be expanded to honor slaves and the Union soldiers who tried to free them.

Intermingled in the crowd were hopeful candidates for local office including Umstaddt, Board Chairman Scott York and two of his three challengers, Democrat Phyllis Randall and Republican Charlie King. Also present: Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring; Mike Turner, a Democrat running for Ashburn supervisor; Tom Marshall, running for Leesburg’s seat on the Loudoun School Board against incumbent Bill Fox;  incumbent Loudoun Sheriff Mike Chapman; and Leesburg town council members Kelly Burk and Marty Martinez.

Adding irony to Thomas’s comments about the disappearance of a slave cemetery in Lansdowne was the Leesburg council’s impending decision whether to raze historic buildings to build a new courthouse. A historic Episcopal cemetery that fronts on Church Street, adjacent to the proposed new courthouse, will remain intact.

A white cemetery on Church Street north of the proposed courthouse stays; four small historic buildings could be demolished to build a new courthouse.

A white cemetery on Church Street north of the proposed courthouse stays; four small historic buildings could be demolished to build a new courthouse.

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“I still think this is hilarious though, because you know, they did lose. They actually lost.”

Roland Martin, formerly a broadcast journalist for CNN, interviews several of the demonstrators holding Confederate flags on July 18.

Roland Martin, a broadcast journalist, interviews three of five demonstrators with Confederate flags on July 18.

You can videotape me, Dude. I’m already on television. So I’m good. I’m on television every day. Feel free to videotape me, but I’m already there. You can Google me. Want a name too?
— Roland Martin

Former CNN journalist Roland Martin, confederate sympathizers, and former sheriff candidate Ron Speakman argued the history of secession in front of a statue of a confederate soldier on the courthouse lawn in Leesburg on July 18.


Video by Anna Harris, Loudoun Times-Mirror.

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Still here.

Yankees retreat. Again.

Yankees turned back. Again.


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Freeing the stories of Loudoun slaves

As she described her dreams for the Loudoun Freedom Center, Pastor Michelle was surrounded by the names of slaves buried at Belmont Plantation.

As she described her dreams for the Loudoun Freedom Center, Pastor Michelle Thomas was surrounded by the names of slaves buried at Belmont Plantation.

A press conference to announce formation of the Loudoun Freedom Center was planned long before nine people were murdered June 17 at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., an historic church that rose from resistance to slavery.

Michelle Thomas, pastor of Holy and Whole Life Changing Ministries International in Lansdowne, said she was researching land where her church can build a sanctuary when she discovered nearby an unmarked cemetery with the remains of slaves from the former Belmont Plantation. Thomas then searched for a similar cemetery that historians say existed at the Coton Plantaion, now Lansdowne on the Potomac, where 2,155 contemporary homes were built in the early 21st century. But that cemetery apparently was lost to development of the Potomac Club and its associated amenities, such as a toddler wading pool.

At a prayer vigil remembering the victims in the Charleston shooting, Thomas asked church members to reach out to at least nine people unlike themselves in race, creed, or religion, to honor the nine people who died at the hands of an allegedly racially motivated shooter at Mother Emmanuel Church, as it is familiarly known.

June 19, 2015

(Emancipation Day)

For Immediate Release

Science and Forensic Evidence Will Set Their Stories Free

LANSDOWNE, VA: On Emancipation Day, known as “Juneteenth,” 2015, Pastor Michelle C. Thomas announced formation of the Loudoun Freedom Center, a non-profit organization where science and history will meet to tell the story of a generation for generations to come. The Center will use science and technology to explore the rich cultural history of Loudoun County and honor the lives of African American slaves on well–known plantations who built the county.

“Loudoun is a diverse community – below and above the ground,” Pastor Thomas said.

Earlier this year, while researching land where her church plans to build a new sanctuary, Pastor Thomas rediscovered the final resting place of more than 40 slaves who had lived, worked and died on the former Belmont Plantation in Ashburn. Armed with this new evidence of truth unearthed, Pastor Thomas became even more determined to trace the silent history of the path from slavery to freedom in Loudoun. She scoured archival records such as tax records, deeds, wills, judgments, and even property repossessions to discover the names of 42 slaves who had lived and worked on the former Coton plantation, now known as Lansdowne On the Potomac.

To honor the legacy of these unsung American heroes, Pastor Thomas created The Loudoun Freedom Center, which will foster these important projects:

1. Visitor Center: To include an interactive map that tells the story of historic African American communities of Loudoun County.

2. Loudoun African Burial Grounds: Chronicle the stories that identify and honor the remains of slaves buried throughout Loudon County.

3. Belmont African Burial Ground: Preserve, protect, and restore the sacred burial ground located on the former Belmont Plantation.

4. Coton (Lansdowne) African Burial Ground: Identify, preserve, and protect the sacred burial ground located on the former Coton Plantation.

5. I Am Loudoun Genome Project will:

a. Use consumer genetics to offer personal genealogical studies to recover ancestral data.
b. Identify familial health risks from smallpox to Lyme disease.
c. Instruct and encourage all Loudoun residents to use science to discover who they are related to.

6. Virtual DNA Extraction Laboratory: Perform check swabs and extract DNA from human cells, the link to individual ancestral histories.

7. Research Library & Genealogy: The Research Library & Genealogy Hub will be a world-class facility developed in partnership with Virginia schools and universities. It will house artifacts and documents that support restorative work taking place through the Freedom Center.

8. Loudoun Freedom Chapel: A place to reflect and meditate.

The purpose of the Loudoun Freedom Center is to:

• Raise public awareness of the significance of rediscovering, preserving, and restoring endangered African American history while honoring the lives and sacrifices of unsung American heroes;

• Employ a STEM based approach to encourage deeper and broader study of African American history while engaging schools of all kinds: public, private, religious, and STEM based. Employ sciences such as anthropology, archaeology, and biology. Through STEM interest and research, close the achievement gap within the very community that was once disenfranchised;

• Build a bridge to unite the community through reconciliation fostered by the collaborative efforts of this project. The Loudoun Freedom Center will grow into the cultural epicenter of African American history in Loudoun County and across Northern Virginia.

The Loudoun Freedom Center seeks to engage the whole community to document, interpret, and free the stories of enslaved African American communities. We need your gifts of time and talent and the wealth of your ideas to build a better Loudoun. Please join us!

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So it is late in the game with three men on and the perennial team dynasty up to bat.

The heart of the batting order, Scott York, Matt Latourneau, Ralph Buona, and Shawn Williams (perhaps running as an independent to succeed himself) need one more vote to control the Loudoun Board of Supervisors four more years. Five days remain to register to run as an independent.

Throw a changeup!

Edgar Hatrick should run for one term as Chairman of the Board of Supervisors! He is the only person whose fan base is broader and deeper than York’s. He can run a meeting. He can negotiate with bullies. He will fully fund public schools, and that is the clearly articulated want of the majority of taxpaying voters in Loudoun.

They care more about good schools than they care about party affiliation, which means little in Loudoun. Republicans choke off competition at the primary level, and local Democrats have no mechanism for preparing experienced candidates.

In surveys, voters repeatedly say they are willing to pay higher taxes to fund better schools and higher teacher salaries.

What they do not want is more residential development with no plan for funding infrastructure to support it.

Hatrick for chairman!

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