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Historical marker to be unveiled

After more than a year following its approval by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources a historical marker designated for Charlotte Court House will be unveiled.

The Historical Marker for Joseph R. Holmes will be unveiled during a public event on Saturday, Oct. 23, beginning at 1 p.m. at the at the Old Court House in Charlotte Court House.

According to the Department of Historic Resources (DHR) the marker will inform the public about the life of Joseph R. Holmes who was born enslaved. After emancipation, he served as a delegate to the Virginia Republican Party conventions in 1867 and 1869 and was elected to represent Charlotte and Halifax counties in Virginia’s Constitutional Convention of 1867-68. On May 3, 1869, four white men assassinated Holmes on the county’s courthouse steps. The men charged with his murder were never tried.

The placement of the historical marker was spearheaded by Kathy Liston who recently published the history of and murder of Holmes.

According to Liston, because of his outspoken support of civil rights and education for freed people, he was murdered on the courthouse steps in Charlotte County.

“His death was reported internationally, drawing attention to the plight of freed people,” Liston said. “The marker text, which must be approved by DHR, will memorialize Holmes’s public service, not just his murder. I’m very excited that Joe Holmes is finally getting a little of the justice that he has been denied.”

According to DHR the marker text will read:

Joseph R. Holmes (ca. 1838-1869)

Joseph R. Holmes, formerly enslaved in Charlotte County, campaigned for civil rights and education after emancipation. He served as a delegate to the Virginia Republican Party conventions in 1867 and 1869 and was elected to represent Charlotte and Halifax counties in Virginia’s Constitutional Convention of 1867-68, held as a precondition for the state’s readmission to the Union. On 3 May 1869, Holmes was shot dead here on the courthouse steps. Brothers John and Griffin S. Marshall, along with William T. Boyd and Macon C. Morris, all white, were charged with his murder. The men fled and were never tried. The murder drew international attention to the plight of freed people during Reconstruction.

The marker comes with a $1,945 price tag in which donations were made to cover using no county funds for the marker.

Virginia’s historical highway marker program, which began in 1927 with the installation of the first markers along U.S. 1, is considered the oldest such program in the nation. Currently there are more than 2,600 state markers, most of which are maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, except in those localities outside of VDOT’s authority.

The Saturday, Oct. 23, event is open to the public, but seating is limited, and face masks are required.