By Jonathan Hunley
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.
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.