The Slave Auction Block located on the corner of Charles St. and Williams St. in Fredericksburg, VA represents a remnant of the colonial slave trade during a time when the city was an important trade center. This small, unremarkable sandstone block was used to display slaves at auction though its purpose has long produced local controversy. In 1924 the Fredricksburg City Council petitioned for the stone's removal; they maintained that it was actually used for women to mount their horses. This argument was refuted by evidence found in periodicals and one personal account.
Auction Block was officially recognized as an historic landmark by the
Fredericksburg City Council in 1984, but it has existed among controversy for
nearly a century. The stone’s purpose
has been contested since 1924 when the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce
petitioned City Council to have the stone removed because, they maintained, the
stone’s historic and real purpose was to allow women to mount horses in front
of the Planter’s Hotel where it is located. The Chamber contended that the stone was never
used to present humans for sale. This
sentiment was endorsed by John Tackett Goolrick, a local historian and
Confederate Veteran, at the time.
confrontation, a local auctioneer, N.B. Kinsley, emerged with an 1857 newspaper
article from the Daily Star that plainly
advertised a slave auction to take place in front of the Planter’s Hotel where
the block is located. Kinsley continued
that the block was indeed used for mounting horses, but that it was also used
to exhibit slaves for auction. His counter
argument silenced the City Council and the block remained.
advertisement that Kinsley cited is lost, but another advertisement from the Fredericksburg News later in the same year
has emerged. It is dated December, 22
1857, two months after Kinsley’s advertisement, and advertises a slave auction
in front of the Planter’s Hotel. This is
significant because another venue, Timberlake’s Auction House, could have accommodated
the same sale not far from the hotel at the same time. This again supports the case for the block as
a prop for slave auctions.
is the story of Albert Crutchfield. He was
a slave that contended that he was sold from the very block that sits on
Charles St. in 1859 at the age of fifteen.
He is seen in a postcard circa-1920s behind the slave block. His obituary reported that he “distinctly”
remembered being sold on the block.