A local community group honored black American slaves who were sold to the Market House in downtown Fayetteville with a demonstration in the building.
The actors dressed in old clothes and had ankle and wrist chains, while others held signs reading “Slaves Sold Here,” silently marched down Hay Street on Sunday afternoon to perform a slavery reenactment.
Onlookers at restaurants and shops along the street observed that the silent group was led by a white actor with a whip and overalls and another on horseback.
The event, hosted by local nonprofit Let’s Make It Happen Together, was one of many celebrations on June 10 this weekend in Fayetteville and Cumberland County.
Juneteenth is now considered a national holiday to commemorate enslaved black Americans and the end of slavery in the United States.
The Fayetteville Market House:Accounts of slave auctions under the arcades
A controversial historical monument
âI said, if we really want to celebrate Juneteenth, we really have to tell the whole story and tell the truth about it,â said Swan Davis, a community activist. “For us not to do it that way, it means we were afraid of what our ancestors went through.”
Davis, the founder of the organization, said he wanted to tell the story of the Market House and the slaves who were sold there with the show.
The Fayetteville Market House was built in 1832 to replace the old State House, which was destroyed in a fire. It was not built as a slave market, but as a town hall and a market. But records show slaves were sold there at auction.
Let’s Make It Happen Together put on the show in two weeks, and local actors and volunteers performed songs, poems and a play on a stage in front of the building. A large crowd of people attended the event.
Built in 1831, the Market House has been the center of controversy in the city.
Davis has been told by some people that he shouldn’t do this.
“It was just like at the end of the day our ancestors went through this, and it was right that we did it right and tell as much truth as possible about what happened,” said Davis said. âWe are just thankful that we were able to do this and we had a lot of volunteers to support as well as our community. “
Davis wanted to challenge claims that the Market House was not a place where slaves were sold and that the conversation about this part of its history should be discussed.
Other speakers at the event included Reverend Christopher Stackhouse, pastor of Lewis Chapel Baptist Missionary Church in Fayetteville.
In his speech, he referred to the bell inside the Market House that rang every night at 9 p.m. signifying a curfew put in place before slavery ended in the city.
âThey rang that bell to remind people, black people of Fayetteville, NC, ‘remember your place,’â Stackhouse said. âIf you were outside after 9 am, you could be severely beaten if not killed. Even though the Emancipation Proclamation was passed, they still rang that bell. “
Stackhouse, whose ancestor was a runaway slave from the city, said the Market House always serves as a reminder that black people in the city have a “place.”
âThey always try to act like all of this stuff has been around for so many generations that we don’t need to mention it anymore,â Stackhouse said. “It is not a distant and distant story that no living person has a connection to. It is still relevant today.”
Some people from Hay Street joined the crowd to watch the show. Others verbally expressed their contempt.
âWe’re not painting with a pretty brush what happened here,â Stackhouse said. âIt is important for all of us to know that souls, people, men, women, boys, girls and babies have been sold in this building here. Market House which is so historic it cannot be out of place, but so historic that you can’t tell its story.
Storytelling and celebration
Raqi Barnett, 49, was one of the actors in the play outside Market House.
Dressed in a long white skirt and a tattered green top, Barnett passionately recited âThe Negro Motherâ by poet Langston Hughes in which he describes the life and slavery of a black woman.
âWhen I got ready to do the poem, I really wanted them to feel the power of words on how they could make a difference,â Barnett said. âSee how you can take what she’s been through and use it to push yourself to do better, think about the story, treat others well. “
Barnett, a theatrical arts teacher at EE Smith High School, said she wanted to be in the mindset of a enslaved person and what she may have been thinking or what she experienced in the moments before. to be sold in the building.
At the end of the event, the crowd danced to a rendition of Frankie Beverly and Maze’s 1981 hit “Before I Let Go” outside the Market House to celebrate June 19, honor the past and look to the future.
âWe’ve been through too much,â Davis said. âAnd we still have walls to tear down. “
Regional corporate reporter Kristen Johnson can be reached at [email protected] or 910-486-3570.
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