Boston-based New Democracy Coalition founder Kevin Peterson started a fast Monday, escalating a long-running effort to change the name of Faneuil Hall, which was named for a wealthy merchant who was an owner and trader of slaves.
Peterson’s demand: that Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh identify a date to plan citywide hearings on changing the name. Through a spokesperson, the mayor had no comment.
"Faneuil Hall represents white supremacy and the related economic, cultural and political roadblocks that stymie Black life in Boston," Peterson said in a statement Monday. "We must stand against symbols of racism in Boston. Only then can we get to address the longstanding issues of anti-Black racism, reconciliation and reparations in the city on all levels."
Peter Faneuil, who died in 1742, had five slaves, according to the National Park Service, which oversees historic sites and maintains an information desk at the marketplace.
“Though Peter Faneuil lived a short life, his keen eye for business made him a successful merchant, which gave him the finances to donate Faneuil Hall to Boston,” the park service reports on its website. “There is some irony to be found in its nickname however, because a portion of the money used to fund ‘The Cradle of Liberty’ came from the buying and selling of African slaves.”
While Walsh had no comment Tuesday, he has addressed the topic previously. “If we were to change the name of Faneuil Hall today, 30 years from now, no one would know why we did it,” he said. “Not many people know about the history of that man. And over the years, Faneuil Hall has become a place where good things have happened: historic speeches such as Frederick Douglass’s call for the end to slavery, the signing of forward-thinking legislation like the Affordable Care Act, and where hundreds of people take their oath of citizenship every year. What we should do instead, is figure out a way to acknowledge the history so people understand it. We can’t erase history, but we can learn from it.”
Former governor Mitt Romney in 2006 gathered a group at Faneuil Hall to sign the state’s universal health care law, which became a template for the federal Affordable Care Act.