CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Concerns over Thomas Jefferson’s history of owning enslaved people has prompted a local health district in Virginia to drop the Founding Father’s name and call itself the Blue Ridge Health District.
Director Denise Bonds told The Daily Progress in Charlottesville that the name change is an effort to be more equitable and inclusive.
“While Thomas Jefferson was a really important historical figure, and wrote many important documents, and is certainly part of the history of Charlottesville and Albemarle, he also owned slaves, and there are individuals that live in our community who are descendants of those slaves, and we want those individuals to feel comfortable coming to the health department as well,” Dr. Bonds said.
The district provides public health services as part of the Virginia Department of Health. And it serves Charlottesville as well as the counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson.
Other organizations are changing their names away from “Jefferson.”
For instance, the Albemarle and Charlottesville governments no longer have a paid holiday for Jefferson’s birthday. And the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors recently passed a resolution to add context to a Jefferson statue to include his ownership of slaves.