Removed slave auction block now on display at Fredericksburg museum

This May 5, 2005, file photo, shows the historic pre-civil war auction block for slaves and property at its former location on the corner of Charles and William Streets in downtown Fredericksburg. (Reza A Marvashti/The Free Lance-Star via AP)

The 1,600-pound slave auction block that once stood on the sidewalk at the corner of William and Charles streets in downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia, is now on display at a local museum.

The local chapter of the NAACP called for the auction block’s removal in 2017, and the city council voted to remove the artifact in 2019, but it was delayed by lawsuits and the coronavirus pandemic.

The auction block is now in a temporary display at the Fredericksburg Area Museum, while a permanent display with a broader interpretation of the auction block is being built.

Located on the first floor, the block is behind a partition which includes a sign to parents that graffiti on the block may not be appropriate for all ages.

The block was spray-painted during last year’s protest movement over the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. It was removed from the Fredericksburg street corner in the first week of June 2020.

The graffiti will remain part of the display, according to museum president and CEO Sara Poore.

“We look at the auction block as a springboard for future conversations as to where we’ve been and the struggles of slavers, but also the rising and the incredible accomplishments of the African American community,” Poore told the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star.

“As it was during a lot of civil rights protests, it’s the young people that are making the move. So, how do we make this a relevant story to those young people going forward to the future?”

According to the museum’s research, the slave block stood at the corner for more than 170 years, in front of what was once the Planter’s Hotel. Between 1847 and 1862, at least 18 auctions involving hundreds of enslaved people took place there.

The Free Lance-Star said the museum’s temporary display includes a postcard from 1931, showing Fredericksburg resident Albert Crutchfield, a Black man sold at age 15 at that location in 1859, standing at the corner where the block once stood.

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.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up