Fredericksburg Slave Auction Block
Following the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Councilor Charlie Frye raised the topic of relocating the Slave Auction Block at the City Council Meeting on August 22, 2017. The block’s presence downtown was a source of pain for the Black community and negatively represented our history. The block also attracted disrespectful behavior and vandalism. On September 18, 2017, the Fredericksburg Branch issued a position statement finding the slave auction block at the corner of William and Charles Streets in downtown Fredericksburg to be a narrow and negative representation of the history of African Americans in and of Fredericksburg.
After Council voted in September to keep the slave block at its location, they asked the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (ICSC) to assist in leading the next steps. The Fredericksburg Branch formed the Slave Auction Block Committee led by Gaye Adegbalola, Dr. Marci Catlett, and Lori Lewis to organize the Branch’s response and interaction with ICSC.
Over the course of 2018, ICSC organized community engagement and research over three phases. The Phase 3 Final Report was released on March 13, 2019 at a special meeting of City Council. Councilor Frye placed the proposal to remove the auction block back before City Council on June 11, 2019. This time, City Council voted 6 to 1 to approve the relocation from its current location at the corner of William and Charles Streets to the Fredericksburg Area Museum (FAM). On November 12, 2019, City Council approved the final certificate of appropriateness and final loan agreement with FAM.
On December 10, 2019, E.D. Cole Building, L.L.C. and Local Holdings, L.L.C. filed a petition in the Fredericksburg Circuit Court , appealing City Council’s November decision. On December 16, the Fredericksburg Branch adopted a position statement in response to the suit and on December 19, released a press release encouraging all NAACP members to refrain from doing business with the “Olde Towne Butcher” and “The Butcher’s Table”. Following the February ruling that the Fredericksburg City Council had the legal authority to order the removal of the slave auction block, E.D. Cole Building, L.L.C. filed a petition with the State Supreme Court. On April 1, 2020 a three-judge panel of the Virginia Supreme Court rejected E.D. Cole’s petition to prohibit the City from moving the slave auction block while it (E.D. Cole and/or Local Holdings LLC) tries to appeal the Circuit Court’s dismissal of the Petition for Declaratory Judgment.
Following delays from the COVID pandemic and the outcry from protestors demonstrating against police brutality, on June 5, 2020, the City removed the block. The block was later transferred to the Fredericksburg Area Museum. A moment of recognition was held on October 27, 2020 at the corner of Charles and William Streets, the original site of the slave auction block. The brickwork and placement of the circular medallion were completed at the site and a brief moment of recognition took place to provide closure.