Memory of Sold Slaves, Fayetteville
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
“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
City of Fayetteville
October 8, 1994
35.052580 , -78.878270 View in Geobrowse
'Market House Set on Fire in Fayetteville; Police Deploy Emergency Response Unit ," CBS17.com, May 31, 2020, (accessed July 23, 2020) Link
Andrews, William L. "Charles Waddell Chesnutt, 1858-1932," from "Documenting the American South," docsouth.unc.edu, (accessed December 12, 2015) Link
Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Market House,” www.visitfayettevillenc.com, (accessed November 4, 2019) Link
Lozano, Michael. "Online Petition to Knock down Fayetteville's Market House Reaches 115,000 Signatures," ABC11.com, June 16, 2020, (accessed July 23, 2020) 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
Fayetteville City Council
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.''
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
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.
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.
On May 30, 2020, during protests over the death of George Floyd, against police brutality and white supremacy across the nation, the Market House Building was set on fire by demonstrators chanting "Black Lives Matter". The demonstrators used wood pallets to encourage a larger fire. In June, a petition to tear down the building where slaves were once sold, circulated with a goal to collect 150,000 signatures. The creators of the petition said it was time to bring down the symbol of hate and create something that can unify Fayetteville. It will be up to the city and community to come to a conclusion on whether the building can be repurposed for a better message or be completely torn down.
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.