A slave auction block has been removed from a street corner in downtown Fredericksburg, Va., some 158 years after the Emancipation Proclamation—and seven months after the city council voted 6-1 to remove it. The Washington Post reports that the 176-year-old block had been targeted during George Floyd protests, with marchers chanting "Move the block!" Chuck Frye Jr., the only African American member of the city council, has been fighting for years to have the block removed. In 2017, he was the only member to vote in favor of removal, but the council's stance shifted after hiring the International Coalition Sites of Conscience nonprofit, which advises communities on dealing with historical sites associated with human rights violations. Removal was delayed by the pandemic and lawsuits from two business owners who wanted the block to stay where it was.
Frye tells CNN that he remembers people spitting on the block when he was a child, and also heard stories about tourists having photos taken with it. "I think racist folks loved it, historians understood it, and black people were intimidated," he says. The 800-pound block was finally removed Friday morning and transported to the Fredericksburg Area Museum. Sara Poore, the museum's president and CEO, says she supported the block's removal from downtown because it was a "source of pain and suffering for so long." She says the museum is working with the community on telling the block's story—and she wants to leave graffiti on it from the protests intact. "By cleaning it, you erase history," she says. (Read more Virginia stories.)