The Jefferson School, founded in 1926, was then one of only ten African American high schools in Virginia. It now houses 11 nonprofit organizations, including the African American Heritage Center, and is managed by the Jefferson School Foundation. The Foundation’s executive director, Sue Friedman, formerly chair of the Albemarle County School Board, has just filed suit against one of the building’s resident nonprofit partners for defamation.
At an April meeting of the resident partners Elliott Brown, executive director of Common Ground Healing Arts, complained about how Friedman was hired, especially since, she claimed, she “was fired from her last job for exhibiting unethical behavior in fundraising.” Friedman had been executive director of the Alzheimers Foundation for 12 years. Brown later stated in an email that he should have said “left” rather than “fired,” but stood by her allegation of impropriety.
What makes this controversy a revealing sign of the times is that Brown had another objection to Friedman’s hiring, stating in that same email that “she believed a white person must be ‘overwhelmingly justified’ to run the former African American school—a standard she said Friedman didn’t meet.”
Wait, there’s more! In the last paragraph of the article from which I’ve quoted, C-VILLE Weekly could not refrain from a sly bit of guilt by association:
Tom Albro, the lawyer representing Friedman, is also representing Edward Dickinson Tayloe II (a plaintiff in the lawsuit fighting City Council’s vote to remove Confederate statues) in a defamation suit against C-VILLE, news editor Lisa Provence, and UVA assistant professor Jalane Schmidt for this feature story. A copy of that complaint can be found here.
That complaint is well worth reading. It shows, among other things, that Charlottesville is fertile ground for an attorney who develops expertise in race-based defamation.