Cities and towns have official seals for authenticating certain documents. Fayetteville has had three different seals over time. The first two were nondescript. The most recent, which has been used for more than 20 years, has the historic Market House as its focal point. The iconic building in the center of downtown has been emblematic of the city in modern times. And the official seal is everywhere … on the city’s website, all kinds of documents and publications as well as public buildings. It hangs on the wall in council chambers in city hall.
Because of its history, the Market House in recent decades has become controversial. In antebellum Fayetteville, the structure was used as a market for the sale of produce and livestock. Occasionally slaves were sold there, and that’s the rub.
“The Market House is a symbolic and significant part of our history. However, in my opinion, it should not be used in any official capacities concerning our city,” says Mayor Pro-Tem Mitch Colvin.
Last year City Council instructed the Fayetteville-Cumberland Human Relations Commission to research whether the city should consider changing the seal by removing the likeness of the Market House. Public meetings on the subject have wrapped up, and council soon will tackle the issue, which has become racially divisive. Colvin and others point out the “history of the place is offensive.” Some members of council declined to comment.
Mayor Nat Robertson recognized two years ago that the city seal had no decorative place in his office, “…when I took over I had the Fayetteville logo used in place of the seal on all my letterhead, business cards and note pads,” he told Up & Coming Weekly. Colvin notes Fayetteville is North Carolina’s most racially diverse community, “I feel that it is time we began to look at a city symbol that reflects the diversity of this community. I feel if it offends one citizen that’s one too many.”
City Clerk Pamela McGill outlined the seal’s official uses. “I use the seal on all official documents of the city that require my attention: City Council meeting minutes, ordinances, resolutions, contracts, easements, and proclamations.” And there are a couple of other more obscure uses for the seal, she said. No one really knows when the city began incorporating likenesses of the Market House into what once was an official logo. It’s no longer used that way, but in the 1960s and ‘70s, graphics of the building were even plastered on police cars and fire engines. A more contemporary logo replaced it many years ago.
says the emblem could be retired to only its official uses, “Removal in such a way is an option. However, I would prefer having it removed as an official representation of Fayetteville. It is a symbol not appreciated by the majority of the black community.”
Since taking office, McDougald has refused to wear the city lapel pin because it is a replica of the seal.