After more calls this week to rename Faneuil Hall, whose wealthy namesake traded and owned slaves, Mayor Marty Walsh indicated he’s open to talking about the prospect — one that he had previously dismissed.
The effort to re-brand the historic tourist attraction has been a years-long initiative by the local grassroots civics organization, The New Democracy Coalition.
The group and other supporters gathered again on Tuesday outside City Hall to demand the city take up the topic as the nation continues to take a hard look at the impacts of racism and systemic, racial injustice in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.
Peter Faneuil, an 18th century merchant, built the hall with money he made trading slaves and raw goods. Historical records show Faneuil, who later donated the building to the city, was a slaveowner himself.
In a statement last week, Kevin Peterson, founder of the coalition, said the name represents racism.
“It is an evil symbol that expresses the city’s discrimination practices in so many dimensions,” he said. “It humiliates Black people in Boston.”
<h2>Protesters call for city to reallocate police funding</h2>
Asked about the idea to rename the hall during a press conference Wednesday, Walsh said he had not talked about it, but is aware of the history attached to the property, including both the “very bad” chapter of the country’s history and the hall’s prevalence in growth of the United States.
“At this point, I have not engaged in any conversations and certainty everything is on the table to have conversations about,” Walsh said.
The remarks are a change in response for Walsh, who has previously said he is not in favor of the initiative.
In 2018, the mayor said if the city chose to rename the hall, people, 30 years from now, would not know why the decision was made.
“Not many people know about the history of that man,” Walsh said at the time, referring to Faneuil. “And over the years, Faneuil Hall has become a place where good things have happened: historic speeches such as Frederick Douglass’ call for the end to slavery, the signing of forward thinking legislation like the (Massachusetts) Affordable Care Act, and where hundreds of people take their oath of citizenship every year.
“What we should do instead, is figure out a way to acknowledge the history so people understand it,” he added. “We can’t erase history, but we can learn from it.”
The mayor, two years ago, had instead backed a project to build a memorial for victims of the slave trade at Faneuil Hall. Slave auctions were once held along Merchants Row.
But the plans never came to fruition. The artist behind the monument pulled out last year following opposition from the Boston branch of the NAACP.
Walsh’s remarks Wednesday came after a statue of Christopher Columbus was decapitated in the North End and later removed to be placed in storage.
“Given the conversations that we’re certainly having right now in our city of Boston and throughout the country, we’re also going to take time to assess the historic meaning of the statue,” the mayor said after that incident.