Debate sparkes over Fredericksburg slave auction block

A debate is brewing over Fredericksburg, Virginia's historic downtown. It centers around one street corner -- where slaves were bought and sold.

FREDERICKSBURG, VA. (WUSA9) - Conversations all across the country about Confederate statues are happening right now. Some want to have the dark part of history taken down, others believe it should stay.

In Fredericksburg, the debate about a slave auction block is in the spotlight.

The auction block has been there since the 1840s. It sits on the corner of William and Charles St. in downtown. Fredericksburg Area Museum President Sara Poore says there have been at least nine documented accounts of slaves being sold there.

The debate was a big discussion at this week's city council meeting. Right now there are also two petitions going around. One with more than 2,000 signatures asking it to be removed. A second wanting it to stay, with just 20 signatures.

Poore says it's not a historian’s decision about whether the auction block should stay or go, but it is her job to educate people about what happened here.

"The importance of understanding our history is the horrible components. We need to remember the extent we can go in anger and hatred and how can we do better?" said Poore.

Poore says the discussion is an interesting one, but in a way it is different from the conversations about Confederate statues. The auction block does not serve as a memorial, according to Poore. It's an artifact meant to educate people about the horrific events that happened there.

Last week, someone wrote a letter to the editor in a local newspaper, asking for the auction block to be removed.  Part of the letter reads:

"Maybe it is time to ask ourselves this question and begin the conversation surrounding its removal. Perhaps such a relic would be better represented in the Civil War museum only a few blocks over."

There are two very different sides with varying opinions. Ultimately, they have a similar goal in mind, to make sure this part of history never repeats itself.

Fredericksburg City Council plans to hold several public hearings on the topic to decide how to move forward.

 

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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