06 JEFF market house slave plaque 3For nearly 200 years the historic Market House has been the focal point of downtown Fayetteville. Its very existence has been an irritant for many African Americans. Its presence has been an object of public debate for many years. On April 15, City Council decided not to tear the building down or move it out of downtown, which would be virtually impossible because of its architecture.

Council voted 9-1 to repurpose the landmark. Local architects suggested turning it into an art exhibit, making it into a place that displays Fayetteville history with a focus on Black contributors, making it into a marketplace for strictly Black vendors or using it to create an event space. That decision has yet to be made.

The Market House was built in 1832 on the site of the old State House, which had been where North Carolina delegates ratified the U.S. Constitution. But the state house was destroyed in the Great Fire
of 1831.

The Market House is one of only 50 National Landmarks in North Carolina. Architecturally unique, the structure is one of the few in America to use the town hall - market scheme found in England. Household goods were sold beneath the building, while the second floor was utilized originally as the town hall.

Occasionally enslaved people were sold at or near the Market House. The vast majority of the slaves were sold as a result of indebtedness or estate liquidation. Unlike New Orleans, Richmond and Charleston, S.C. North Carolina cities were not slave markets.

On April 16, a small group of demonstrators took up a position at Market Square in response to what they called “the persistent injustice facing Black lives.” The group, mostly young, staged the protest which drew some support from passing motorists. Several police squad cars patrolled the vicinity for an hour before the five o’clock session began. The group said members intend to hold similar demonstrations every Friday evening in May.

The Cumberland County administration closed government buildings in the downtown Fayetteville area at 4 p.m. “to allow employees to leave the area prior to potential protest activities,” as stated in a news release.

The news release stated all of the county's government buildings downtown, including the courthouse, board of elections office and headquarters library would close early. City administrative staff members were sent home at 4:30, according to a city spokeswoman.

In 1989, Fayetteville City Council commissioned a plaque to be attached to the exterior of the Market House where it still stands.

It reads in part: “In memory and honor of those indomitable people who were stripped of their dignity when sold as slaves at this place. Their courage at that time was a proud heritage of all times. They endured the past so the future could be won for freedom and justice.”

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