Council asks for input on city’s slave auction block
Fredericksburg leaders hear calls to move the stone
The thorny issue of race in America erupted with deadly protests over the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville last month. Shortly after that, debate arose over whether a slave auction block should be moved from the street corner where it sits in downtown Fredericksburg.
City officials are seeking public input before making a decision on what to do about the block. On Wednesday, officials announced that a link has been added to the city’s website to accept comments.
The City Council plans to take up the issue at a meeting later this month.
The council said in a news release that the option to keep the block could include building a “more prominent public space” that might include interpretive panels and a better design for pedestrians.
If the decision is to move the block, that option could include installing a historic marker at the corner that would include directions to the block’s new location. The Fredericksburg Area Museum could be the new home for the block.
The block’s current marker reads: “Fredericksburg’s principal auction site in pre-Civil War days for slaves and property.”
On Aug. 20, during a vigil at the block on the corner of William and Charles streets, the Rev. Hashmel Turner prayed that the council would remove the stone block, calling it an “obstacle that brings remembrance of so much heartache, so much suffering and so much pain.”
After three people spoke at the council’s Aug. 22 meeting, asking to have the auction block moved to a museum and replaced with a sign, Councilman Chuck Frye suggested creating a working group. That group has produced a plan to help decide what to do with the auction block.
To get residents’ views, the working group decided to create the “comment page” on the city’s website. Online comments can be made at fredericksburgva.gov/ slaveauctionblock. The deadline to make comments is noon on Sept. 25.
The next night, Sept. 26, the issue will be addressed during the council meeting at Town Hall. The online public comments will be addressed as part of the discussion.
The council talked about the auction block during a work session Tuesday.
“The conversation should be broader than it currently is,” said Councilman Matt Kelly, who added that the community’s religious leaders could provide a strong voice. “We have a chance to do this the right way, no matter where you stand.” Rally in Richmond Residents air concerns to police chief.
“Fredericksburg’s principal auction site in pre-Civil War days for slaves and property,” the marker says.