On Thursday, August 2, a Boston-based civics organization announced a boycott on Faneuil Hall, pushing to rename the old marketplace because of its ties to slavery. Activists propose the name should instead be Crispus Attucks Hall.
The New Democracy Coalition has been pushing for a name change for a year and submitted a petition in June. They hope the boycott on Faneuil Hall will push Mayor Marty Walsh and the Boston City Council to give them a hearing.
The boycott was also co-organized by Massachusetts Poor People’s Campaign and the Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries.
Co-chair of the Poor People’s’ Campaign Khalil Saddiq told Spare Change News “the boycott will go as long as it needs to until we have a hearing.”
Faneuil Hall is named after Peter Faneuil, a wealthy eighteenth century merchant who built the public marketplace as a gift to the city. Much of his wealth came from a large inheritance from his uncle’s estate and trading not only tobacco, rum, and molasses, but also humans.
According to an inventory taken of Faneuil’s estate after his death, he also owned five slaves himself. A portion of the money used to build Faneuil Hall, the ‘Cradle of Liberty’, came directly from slave trade.
Richard Futrell, a supporter of the name-change, was amongst the crowd during the official launch of the boycott. “Naming it Faneuil Hall, for us as descendants of slavery, is actually a constant reminder that slavery has its privileges. It’s time to remove those privileges,” Futrell said.
Kevin Peterson, the founder and executive director of The New Democracy Coalition, proposes to instead rename the marketplace to Crispus Attucks Hall. Crispus Attucks was the first man killed in the Boston Massacre, thus the first killed in the Revolutionary War. He was of both African and Native American descent.
“Renaming Faneuil Hall as Crispus Attucks Hall will show that the people of Boston in 2018 had the wisdom, moral, and political courage to rename,” said Peterson. “A different story and different narrative can be told in Boston that’s all about racial reconciliation and bringing people together.”
Mayor Marty Walsh’s issued a statement expressing his disagreement with the proposed name change.
“Not many people know the history of that man… What we should do instead, is figure out a way to acknowledge the history so people can understand it.”
Walsh suggested putting a slavery memorial in the Faneuil Hall area. “To start a racial conversation in this city off in the name of a slave memorial is inappropriate and disrespectful,” said Peterson. “Where is the Black voice in this city in terms of how we designate a conversation about race?”
A wave of renaming monuments and places, and the removal of Confederate statues has been occurring nationwide.
In New York, for example, protesters demanded the statue of J. Marion Sims – a surgeon who experimented on slave women without anesthesia – be taken down, and it was. The city of Gainsville, Florida took down a statue of a confederate soldier in front a municipal building.
In Boston, the only Confederate monument on Georges Island in the Boston Harbor was taken down just last year.
This past April, the name of Yawkey Way, which borders Fenway Park, was changed to Jersey Street after Red Sox principal owner John Henry requested the name be changed because of its association with a racist history. Tom Yawkey was the owner of the Boston Red Sox for 43 years, and the Red Sox was the last team to integrate under his ownership.
In the event that the name change does occur with Faneuil Hall, these organizations’ work won’t stop there.
Saddiq spoke of plans to develop educational programs, like adjusting the Freedom Trail to tell a more inclusive history, and eventually diversifying the businesses within Faneuil Hall, which are corporations not native to Boston.