Around New England

Slave Auction Memorial at Faneuil Hall Cancelled – Because Some Want ‘Faneuil’ Gone

July 18, 2019

A planned memorial to slave auctions outside Faneuil Hall has been cancelled because of opposition to the project from those who want to change the name of the building.

A local artist, Steve Locke, who is an African-American, said opposition from the Boston chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People killed the project.

In an online posting this week, Locke reproduced an email message from an NAACP official stating the group’s opposition to the project but not explaining why.

“… I want to be clear that we have not advocated for changing the name of Faneuil Hall,” the NAACP official wrote.

Another left-wing group, called New Democracy Coalition, has called for changing the name of Faneuil Hall because the man it is named for, Peter Faneuil (1700-1743), owned slaves and traded in slaves.

In 1740, Faneuil donated the money for the town of Boston to build a new marketplace and meeting place out of brick that was named for him.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has opposed changing the name of the building. His support for the slave auction memorial has drawn opposition from some who don’t want the project if they can’t get the name of the building changed.

Locke, disgusted, has decided to take his talents elsewhere.

He addressed his frustration with the cancellation of the project at some length. Here’s an excerpt:

 

I did not just start doing this for no reason. I proposed an artwork to honor the actual and metaphorical space my ancestors occupied when they were brought here during the colonial period by Faneuil and men like him. I proposed my work in the service of those women and men who were stolen, sold, and worked to death. I proposed it to alter the Faneuil Hall marketplace into a site of contemplation of an atrocity against Black people.  That is what I tried to do. Anyone who suggests otherwise does not know me, the project, and how hard I have worked and fought to have a 10 x 16 foot space in this city to acknowledge the trauma that originates from Faneuil Hall. It was to be my gift to the city that helped me become the artist that I am. 

I would never claim that the project would “end” or “solve” Boston’s  racism, but an acknowledgement of the open wound in our city could become a place where we begin to heal. Now it will not happen in Boston, but this is a story that has been replicated up and down the Eastern coast of what has become the United States. I have had interest from people in Salem, MA; Newport and Providence RI; New York, NY.

I am going to refocus my efforts on proposing this work for another site.

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