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Poll shows a majority of Boston voters favor renaming Faneuil Hall

Named after a slave trader, the historic landmark has been the subject of a fledgling effort for a new name. But the poll Friday suggests support may be widespread.

Faneuil Hall. Gray Malin

There appears to be significant appetite in Boston for renaming one of the city’s oldest — and one of the word’s most visited — landmarks.

New name?

According to a poll released Friday by the group Policy for Progress, 51 percent of Boston voters surveyed said they support renaming Faneuil Hall, the 279-year-old market and meeting place named after slave trader Peter Faneuil, compared to 36 percent who oppose the idea.

Kevin Peterson, who has spearheaded the recent simmering effort to rename Faneuil Hall over its ties to slavery, said Friday that he was “excited” by the results, which he said in some ways reflects a “racial reckoning” in the city.

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Support is particularly high among the city’s Black voters, at 67 percent, versus 20 percent in opposition, while white voters were essentially split on the issue, 45 percent to 46 percent.

Voters below the age of 60 also support renaming by double-digit margins, while those 60 and up were the only group firmly opposed, at 32 percent to 53 percent.

Steve Koczela, the president of MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the poll, noted that the question asked to 453 voters surveyed mentioned the fact that Faneuil was a “slave owner who built the hall with money made from trading slaves.”

“I think that also kind of highlights the importance of these differences, and the importance of how people are viewing this question,” Koczela said. “You also see more hesitation among older voters and you also see some ramping up of support by education level.”

Koczela also noted that support was significantly higher for bringing more Black-owned businesses to Fanueil Hall or Quincy Market (87 percent) or erecting a statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass in Faneuil Hall (72 percent).

“Of the 143 businesses there, zero are owned by Blacks,” Peterson said, noting that his group, the New Democracy coalition, has reviewed renaming the former slave auction block as a starting point to “talk more deeply” about racism’s role in Boston’s history and current racial disparities.

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The poll did not ask voters about potential alternative names for Faneuil Hall, though Peterson noted that Crispus Attucks, an African and Native American man considered to be the first person killed in the Revolutionary War (just up the street by the Old State House), has been floated as a possibility. Elizabeth Freeman and names like Freedom Hall or Liberty Hall also have potential as replacements, he said.

Former mayor Marty Walsh had previously opposed renaming the hall, though he did express some openness last year (Faneuil Hall is city-owned, but managed by the National Park Service). In the race to replace Walsh, no candidate has spoken out in support of the renaming push.

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