Court date set for man accused of taking Charlottesville slave auction block marker

Richard H. Allan III. Photo provided by Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail. (Source: ACRJ)
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) — UPDATE (Feb. 12):

The man accused of taking a historic marker from Charlottesville’s Court Square is out on bond.

Richard H. Allan III is scheduled to appear in Charlottesville General District Court Thursday, February 13. Police arrested the 74-year-old two days earlier at his Albemarle County studio, charging him with grand larceny and possession of “burglarious” tools.

According to the Charlottesville Police Department, Allan was being held at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail pending a bond review. Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joseph Platania says Allan later posted bail and was released Wednesday, February 12.

Allan admitted to the C-VILLE Weekly that he took the city’s plaque designating the site of a slave auction block in the early hours of Thursday, February 6.

The Charlottesville Police Department continues to investigate this case, and is asking anyone with information to contact Detective A. Blank at (434) 970-3280 or Crime Stoppers at (434) 977-4000. A reward of up to $1,000 is available through Crime Stoppers for additional information.

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UPDATE (Feb. 11):

The site of a stolen historical plaque in Charlottesville’s Court Square was briefly covered with homemade memorials on Tuesday.

Someone likely placed two plaques to mark the slave auction block sometime in the early hours of Tuesday, February 11. One of the homemade markers was on the Zero Court Square building. The other covered the spot where a thief removed the city-owned historical plaque from the sidewalk last week.

The plaque referred to the location as a “human auction site."

The city had removed the two homemade plaques by sometime Tuesday afternoon.

“The city has removed and will continue to remove any makeshift markers placed at the slave auction block site. As we continue our investigation into the missing marker, the City Manager is seeking recommendations from the Historic Resources Committee for a more-appropriate permanent marker in line with their ongoing work evaluating the other historic markers in the Court Square area. This is an important site in the city’s history and we can take this opportunity to improve the signage and add more historical context. Our goal remains to tell a more complete story about Charlottesville’s past here and in our downtown parks,” Charlottesville Spokesperson Brian Wheeler said in a statement to NBC29.

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Charlottesville police are still piecing together what happened to the bronze slave auction block that used to be embedded inside Court Square.

The plaque marked where enslaved people were once sold in downtown Charlottesville. The block was reportedly stolen on Thursday, February 6. In an exclusive interview with C-Ville Weekly, a 75-year-old Albemarle County man claimed responsibility, adding he threw the plaque into the James River.

So far, Charlottesville police have not confirmed the story or made any arrests in the case, leaving community members and area historians to draw their own conclusions.

“Unfortunately, this is, inadequate as it was, this slave auction block, it was really one of the only markers that we did have, you know, that was here,” said Jalane Schmidt, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia.

Schmidt is also a respected public historian in the area, leading monthly tours of Court Square.

The slave auction block was dwarfed by other nearby historical markers, Schmidt added, citing a nearby Confederate statue, as well as a fountain where horses and small animals drank in the 19th century.

“We have more to say with our public markers here in Charlottesville about 19th century horses than we do about 19th century human beings who were enslaved here,” Schmidt said. “When you compare this tiny little slave auction block with the huge equestrian monuments that dominate our park, it’s completely out of proportion, of course, to the population.”

Other community members, including Ike Anderson, a Charlottesville resident, said he wishes the block was never taken.

“Even though it wasn’t, like, seen as something good enough to this person, like that’s all we had that. That stated, you know, history."

In a Facebook post, community activist Tanesha Hudson supported the block’s removal, calling the block “disrespectful.”

The city of Charlottesville was looking to amplify the site of the auction block; however, it was unable to award a contract for the expansion due to an ongoing lawsuit over the nearby Confederate statues.

The city’s Historic Resources Committee is discussing potentially putting a plaque, or sign, on the lamppost sitting beside where the slave auction block was formerly placed. This matter will likely be discussed during the committee’s meeting on Friday, February 14.