Slave Auction Block

It is often said that the City of Fredericksburg is a microcosm of the American story, the good and bad. The City has an exceptional record and reputation in working through the most challenging chapters in our American history, especially in the later parts of the 20th Century. Most often we have proven to be a model for citizen engagement, civil discourse, and a place where the competition of ideas is embraced - and becomes the precursor to action.

There is not perfect certainty as to the history of the stone that we refer to as the slave auction block, and this must be acknowledged from the start. In 2010, John Hennessy, Chief Historian of the Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania National Military Park, published a three-part article (see below) that explores the known history of this "block of stone," which is generally regarded as authoritative from a historical standpoint.

Slave trading block close upSlave block wide shot

Today, the block remains at the corner of William and Charles Streets, a busy downtown commercial corner. Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, Inc., installed a small, ground level, bronze plaque in 1984, reading: "AUCTION BLOCK, Fredericksburg's Principal Auction Site in Pre-Civil War Days for Slaves and Property."

With City Council's mission statement at the forefront, Sharing Our Past, Embracing Our Future, City Council wants to ensure that the decision-making process for the slave auction block location takes place within the larger context of a community dialogue about race, history, and memory. This community dialogue has already begun, and it should continue, with leadership from the local religious community, business community, historians, academic institutions, and the local Black community and institutions. City Council members wish to support this larger conversation and to participate in it.

Community Survey and Public Forum

Online input was gathered on two options on the future of the slave auction block - for it to remain in place option A, or for it to be removed, option B. Input and comments were accepted in September 2017 here is a summary of the 602 responses to the questions. Public Comment Summary (PDF)

Council held a public forum on Saturday, September 23, 2017 for citizens to speak about the two options. Twenty-six citizens spoke at the forum. Approximately 100 people attended.

On September 26, 2017 Council voted to keep the slave block at its current location, by adopting option A, and to focus on better telling a more complete history of Fredericksburg. To help accomplish this, the City engaged the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience to assist in leading the next discussions in three phases of community collaboration sessions. 

Community Collaboration Sessions and Reports 

The Phase 1 sessions were held during April and May 2018 with 140 individuals participating in small focus group settings. Staff from the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience gathered the stories that the community is currently telling about African American History and the slave auction block and how community members felt about those stories. The Phase 1 public report (PDF) details major themes extracted from the interviews and focus groups.

Community Collaboration Brochure (PDF) - mailed to every household in 22401 in early July 2018 informing residents of the upcoming community discussions.

Community collaboration continued in Phase 2 with a focus more specifically on the slave auction block through a series of public brainstorming sessions. Round 1 occurred on August 23 and 24 with several sessions at the Walker Grant Center, at 210 Ferdinand Street. These sessions focused on reviewing the findings from the Phase 1 report (PDF) and what the reinterpretation of the slave auction block may look like based on these findings. Round 2 discussions occurred on September 24 and 25 with several sessions at Walker Grant Center. These sessions focused on a design and signage conversation and review of concepts. The Phase 2 report (PDF) was posted on December 28, 2018. 

Phase 3 discussions occurred on October 23 and 24, November 13 and 14 and December 12 and 13 with all meetings occurring at the downtown Fredericksburg Library at 1201 Caroline Street. Topics were the following for October: Telling the Whole Story; for November: Creating Reflection and Connecting Past to Present; and for December: Education and Next Steps. These discussions delved deeper into topics that were heard during the first two phases including ways in which people talk about all facets of our history. The Phase 3 Final Report was released on March 13, 2019 at a special meeting of Council. 

If you have any questions please contact:

Fredericksburg City Manager, Tim Baroody
P.O., Box 7447
Fredericksburg, VA 22401
(540) 372-1010
Email Tim Baroody