Fredericksburg City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday to remove and relocate a slave auction block that’s been stirring up debate in the city.
The historic site is at the corner of Charles and William streets in downtown Fredericksburg.
The concrete block has a plaque in front of it that reads, “Fredericksburg’s Principal Auction Site in Pre-Civil War Days for Slaves and Property.”
Some African Americans residents have called for the block’s removal following the violence at white nationalist demonstrations in Charlottesville 60 miles away. Other residents argued the auction block inspires important conversation in a city steeped in history and historic preservation.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Councilor Charlie L. Frye said he’s grateful to the city for engaging in a conversation about the slave auction block and about African American history.
“It has been good to have those peaceful conversations face-to-face among our citizens,” Frye said about discussing topics of race relations in the city. “I believe we have grown as a community, and in light of the Coalition’s final report, I am now more confident than ever that we are ready to take bold action."
The International Coalition of Sites of Conscious’ final report found that people are still divided on the future of the block, but that everyone agreed the city needed to do a better job of telling the complete story of its African-American history, according to Fredericksburg.com.
Council member Matt Kelly voted no to removing the block, calling for more community awareness before making a decision.
“It is history, warts and all. We learn from history, not just because of the great wonderful things, we learn from history from our failings and our faults, and how we have overcome them to get to where we are today,” Kelly said.
The city council’s vote will send the block to a nearby Fredericksburg Area Museum.