Fredericksburg moves to preserve centuries-old slave auction block

At the corner of Williams and Charles streets in downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia, there’s a block of stone with a placard reading “AUCTION BLOCK, Fredericksburg Principal Auction Site in pre-Civil War Days for Slaves and Property.”

The stone, once a slave auction block, has gone mostly unnoticed — but now, city officials are moving forward with plans to preserve it.

A final report from the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience outlines steps necessary for the city to safeguard its history and further education about race, including the auction block.

The report, released in March, suggests if the city decides to leave the slave auction block at its current location, more space at the corner should be allotted in order to better tell its history. If the city decides to relocate it, the new location should be one where the story can be fully appreciated.

In 2017, the city held a public forum where residents voiced their opinions on how the preservation of the slave auction block should be handled.

Of those who voted, 60% wanted the block to stay at its current location, while 21% preferred it be moved, possibly to the Fredericksburg Area Museum. Another 18% were undecided.

It remains unclear which direction the city will take but the report also suggests African American voices in the community be involved in the process.

The ICSC has also recommended a content committee be created, specifically to revise the brochures, tours, websites, films and other educational outlets used to promote the history of the slave auction block.

The intentional expansion and promotion of African American history was also suggested.

The coalition also hopes to see Fredericksburg create an annual remembrance, either a vigil or art competition. The city plans to continue the conversation within the community in an effort to find the best option to preserve its history.

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