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Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina
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  • Monument Name

    Memory of Sold Slaves, Fayetteville

  • Type

    Plaque

  • Subjects

    African American Monuments

  • City

    Fayetteville

  • County

    Cumberland

  • Description

    The simple rectangular bronze plaque was placed to honor and in memory of slaves sold at the Market House in Fayetteville. Above the memorial inscription is a quote from African-American author Charles Waddell Chestnut who lived in Fayetteville as a youth. The plaque’s 1989 date represents the year wording for the plaque was presented to the Fayetteville City Council (see more in "Controversies" section below). The plaque was placed and dedicated in 1994 during restoration work on the Market House. It is attached to an interior support column for the building.

    Images: Interior court of the Historic Market House

  • Inscription

    “WE SHALL COME UP SLOWLY AND PAINFULLY PERHAPS, BUT WE SHALL / WIN OUR WAY.” / CHARLES WADDELL CHESTNUT (1858-1932) / IN MEMORY AND HONOR OF THOSE INDOMITABLE / PEOPLE WHO WERE STRIPPED OF THEIR DIGNITY / WHEN SOLD AS SLAVES AT THIS PLACE. THEIR / COURAGE IN THAT TIME IS A PROUD HERITAGE / OF ALL TIMES. THEY ENDURED THE PAST SO THE / FUTURE COULD BE WON FOR FREEDON AND / JUSTICE. THEIR SUFFERING AND SHAME / AFFORDED THE OPPORTUNITY FOR FUTURE / GENERATIONS TO BE RESPONSIBLE CITIZENS, FREE TO LIVE, WORK, AND WORSHIP IN THE / PURSUIT OF THE BLESSINGS OF LIBERTY TO / OURSELVES AND POSTERITY. / CITY COUNCIL OF FAYETTEVILLE 1989

  • Custodian

    City of Fayetteville

  • Dedication Date

    October 8, 1994

  • Decade

    1990s

  • Geographic Coordinates

    35.052580 , -78.878270 View in Geobrowsemap pin

  • Supporting Sources

      Andrews, William L. "Charles Waddell Chesnutt, 1858-1932," from "Documenting the American South," docsouth.unc.edu, (accessed December 12, 2015) Link

      Reinkin, Charles. “Ceremony Marked A Time To Look Back, Move Forward,” The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, NC), October 8, 1994, (accessed December 5, 2015) Link

      Wilkie, Lorry. “Market House Slave Plaque Panel Picked,” The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, NC), July 8, 1989, (accessed December 5, 2015) Link

      Wilson, Bonnie. “Wording Chosen For Slave Plaque At Market House,” The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, NC), October 20, 1989, (accessed December 5, 2015) Link

      Yates, Scott. “Slavery Plaque Divides Council,” The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, NC), January 17, 1990, (accessed December 5, 2015) Link

      “Hay Street, Fayetteville, N.C.,” in Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards (PO77), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (accessed November 5, 2015) Link

      “Market House,” Visit Fayetteville, http://www.visitfayettevillenc.com, (accessed November 4, 2015) Link

  • Public Site

    Yes

  • Materials & Techniques

    Bronze

  • Sponsors

    Fayetteville City Council

  • Monument Dedication and Unveiling

    The dedication event, officially one to recognize completion of exterior renovations on the Market House, was used to present the plaque to the 200 people gathered. Plaque committee member and great-great grandson of a slave William T. Brown was one who spoke at the event. As he stood at a lectern on the buildings steps he relayed that his mother had told him to never go near the place, advice that many blacks had heeded over the years. Brown’s message was that those days needed to be over. He called the plaque an "intelligent conclusion to the many, many years of built-up emotion and resentment by people in the black community about this site.'' He added, "It moves us across the years from merchandising people to memorializing them.''

  • Subject Notes

    Charles Waddell Chesnutt was a well-known African American author, essayist, political activist and lawyer. His work explored the complex issues of racial and social identity in the post-Civil War South.

    The Market House, completed in 1833, replaced the 1788 State House, which was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1831. At the State House, North Carolina had ratified the US Constitution, chartered the University of North Carolina, and ceded her western lands to form the State of Tennessee. Architecturally unique, the Market House is the only National Landmark in Cumberland County and one of only 40 in North Carolina.

  • Controversies

    The Market House and its history gained attention in April 1989 when the North Carolina General Assembly's Black Caucus boycotted a special legislative session in Fayetteville to be held near the site. The session was to commemorate the bicentennial of the state's ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1789. Black legislators said they could not in good conscience attend because the Market House was the site of slave sales in the 19th Century. A resolution presented by the caucus in the House of Representatives requested that a plaque be placed in the building as a reminder of "this moral atrocity." In July, Mayor J.L. Dawkins announced a six- member Market House Plaque Committee to recommend to the City Council what type and where such a plaque should be placed at the historic building.

    When the wording for the plaque was presented to the City Council in January, 1990 it sparked heated debate among the council members. Those in opposition to the wording felt it branded the Market House as a slave market which it was not. One felt the plaque “would forever brand it and desecrate it.” Another claimed the wording represented the wishes of only two people on the committee, William T. Brown and Roy Parker, Jr., the committee co-chairs. The wording as presented passed with a 5-4 vote.

  • Location

    The plaque can be found on an interior west facing column in the Historic Market House which is located in the center of a traffic circle at the convergence of Hay, Gillespie, Person and Green Streets in downtown Fayetteville. A small plaque on a nearby column recognizes Ida Sutton and J.H. Myrover who were responsible for saving the Market House from demolition in 1906. There are also plaques for National Landmark status, the 1788 State House and North Carolina Colonial Dames.

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