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Faneuil Hall boycott urged because of namesake’s slave-trading

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Group wants major Boston tourist destination renamed; mayor’s response: ‘not many people know about the history’

The exterior of Faneuil Hall in Boston. The facade is red brick and there is a tower. ArtifyAnalog/Shutterstock

A group called the New Democracy Coalition is urging what it terms a “black-led boycott” of Boston’s Faneuil Hall to pressure the city to rename the 18th-century building and surrounding marketplace because of its namesake’s involvement with slavery.

The wealth that allowed Peter Faneuil to bequeath the original hall was based in sizable part upon not only slave ownership but slave-trading.

The New Democracy Coalition says that it has been trying for about 18 months to get an answer from Mayor Marty Walsh about a name-change, including through press outreach, City Hall visits, and correspondence, but has been “avoided and rebuffed.”

Walsh did respond to the name-change effort in a statement earlier this year, saying that he did not think that that many people knew the history of Faneuil the man, who died in 1743 (ironically enough, amid a successful partnership to bring 20 kidnapped Africans to the New World).

“If we were to change the name of Faneuil Hall today, 30 years from now, no one would know why we did it,” Walsh said. “Not many people know about the history of that man.”

Walsh instead chose to focus on the landmark’s more recent history as a setting for such milestones as the signing of the Affordable Care Act and oath of citizenship ceremonies.

Those behind the boycott push, though, see the Faneuil name quite differently and are planning pickets along with a boycott.

What’s more, they might take strength from the city’s decision earlier this year to change the name of the stretch of street next to Fenway Park to Jersey Street. It had been named for the late Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey, who had a checkered record on race relations.

Also, in late 2017, the state removed Massachusetts’ sole Confederate memorial—the only one in the U.S. east of the Hudson River, in fact—from a publicly accessible perch on Georges Island in Boston Harbor.