Fredericksburg to move slave auction block to museum

A sandstone block where African men, women and children were auctioned as slaves will soon be removed from the Fredericksburg, Virginia, street corner where it’s stood since 1843.

The Fredericksburg City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday to preserve the stone and loan it to the Fredericksburg Area Museum, where it will go on display in March.

While Fredericksburg residents have debated what to do with the painful reminder of slavery, the council more aggressively explored options after the deadly 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.

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The slave auction block at the corner of William and Charles Streets in Fredericksburg will be loaned to a museum.

“The relocation of a historic object to a museum for display and interpretation and exhibit to the public is a valid preservation technique,” said county attorney Kathy Dooley.

“As opposed to today, with the public’s encounter with this historic object may be unintentional, may be unknowing, it’s certainly unmediated and it may be very unwelcome to a large segment of the community.”

After the removal of the stone in December, the sidewalk will be repaired and a bronze medallion will be placed in the sidewalk to the mark the location. The wording on the medallion is still to be determined.

The one vote in opposition to the plan was Councilman Matt Kelly.

“It’s painful, but sometimes you need to feel that pain and ask yourself, ‘Why did this happen and what is my responsibility to make sure it doesn’t happen again?'”

The city’s loan agreement with the museum is for 20 years, and will be reviewed every five years.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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