Why we boycott Faneuil Hall

Bid for a hearing on changing the name was denied

The following remarks are a slightly edited version of a speech delivered on Thursday at a protest at Faneuil Hall.

 THE ROOTS OF BOSTON — our history, our legacy, our genesis — have been watered with the blood of the slaughtered.

From first nation people to the bound African slave, Boston at the outset represented rejection, colonization, white supremacy.

Boston is the cradle of liberty.  But, strangely, it was also a place that embraced the strange fruit of hatred, the bitter waters of human conflict, the rule of  xenophobia, the dictates of the tyranny and domination of one people over another.

We are gathered here on historic ground. But not sacred ground. Peter Faneuil, for whom Faneuil Hall was named by our town fathers, was a slave owner, a human trafficker, a purveyor of human flesh.  At the Quincy Market Place, just yards from here, people at this present hour glory in food and a false history. But on these grounds the souls of slaves were sold for rum.

The past is always present despite it being denied or suppressed.

We boycotters seek to change the name of Faneuil Hall to Crispus Attucks Hall as part of a grand and ambitious civic project that summons the past to address the future.  That’s why we boycott.

We seek to explore our collected history to better shape the present — to find common ground. Racial reconciliation. Healing across every ethnicity. That’s why we boycott.

We endeavor toward civic renewal that sets a foundation for generations to come.  And they — those generations to come — will ask the questions: Why is this building called Crispus Attucks Hall?  Who was that man? And how tall did he stand? What bright truths and light can be revealed by the changing of a name?  This is why we boycott.

Are we trying to erase history?  No, history can never be erased. It can only be suppressed and hidden — like the history of the terrorized first nation people of this city long ago and like the slaves who walked these streets, their eyes heavy in the glare of liberty so selfishly and hypocritically proclaimed by our town’s myopic fathers. It’s naive to say history can be erased; it can only be suppressed or revealed in the bright light of progress.

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We cannot be a great city without addressing our full historical narrative. To tell the history of a Boston without recognizing its past pain is a civic sin.

So we are here calling for a public hearing to change the name of Faneuil Hall so that we may redirect our future.  This call for a hearing in Boston — through the mayor, through the Boston City Council — has been met with rejection, however. This is why we boycott.

We practice nonviolent civil disobedience following the tradition of Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, C.T. Vivian, Ralph Abernathy, Melnea Cass, Elma Lewis, Paul Parks, Mel King, Bill Owens, Ken Guscott, Bruce Bolling, Jean McGuire, and many more.