Boston’s Faneuil Hall may get another name as the city tries to minimize the racist associations often associated with it.
A Democracy coalition has called for Faneuil Hall, a major shopping center and tourist attraction, to have a different name. It is named for Peter Faneuil, a merchant and slave owner who bought the building as a gift for the city, The Associated Press reported. The move comes after several schools and other public places have been renamed, including the formerly known Robert E. Lee High School which became the Legacy of Educational Excellence High School in San Antonio, Texas last October.
Faneuil Hall may be a bit different than other renamed buildings in that it also has a documented history of promoting change. The hall was a meeting place for abolitionists and women’s suffragists in the 19th century, and it remains a site for political and civic events space, AP reported.
Some African Americans, however, see a different view of Faneuil Hall, said Kevin Peterson of the New Democracy Coalition, who has been pushing for the name change for nearly a year.
“For African Americans in Boston, Faneuil Hall stands as an affront to their civic sensibilities,” Peterson said in a letter to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. “It is not enough to simply acknowledge the legacy of slavery as we seek to move toward racial healing. We don’t need words, we need actions.”
Peterson proposed that the building be renamed after Crispus Attucks, a Black man killed during the 1770 Boston Massacre and widely considered the first victim of the American Revolution. The mayor is opposed to the change, but residents could back the proposal in a vote. The city, in the wake of fierce public and school desegregation battles in the 1970s, has had a long-held reputation for being unwelcoming to African Americans, the Boston Globe‘s Spotlight reporting team cited in several investigative pieces.
More than half of African Americans — 54 percent — rated Boston as unwelcoming in a national survey by the Globe last year.
Examples of this racism in Boston include that only two African Americans have ever been elected to statewide office or held the top position at City Hall; the ratio of white-to-Black workers is wider than the nation’s in six of the top 10 high-income fields; and African Americans in greater Boston have a median net worth of just $8.
If the city decides to support Peterson, then Boston could send a powerful anti-racism message, which would resonate deeply with its residents of color.