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FAM announces the opening of the exhibition “A Monumental Weight: The ‘Auction Block’ in Fredericksburg, Virginia

News from our friends at the Fredericksburg Area Museum

The Fredericksburg Area Museum (FAM) is pleased to announce the opening of its new exhibition A Monumental Weight: The ‘Auction Block’ in Fredericksburg, Virginia. This exhibit will feature the City of Fredericksburg’s ‘Auction Block’ which was removed from the corner of William and Charles Streets in the summer of 2020. Recognizing the immense historical and emotional significance of this complex object, the FAM has worked with members of the community to create this exhibit.

In 2019, following three years of focused community conversations, the Fredericksburg City Council voted to relocate the Auction Block associated with the sale and hiring of enslaved people from its original location at the corner of William and Charles Streets. The Auction Block was moved to the FAM in fall 2020 and opened to the public with an accompanying temporary exhibition soon after.

Incorporating research gathered by historian John Hennessy, archaeological testing conducted by Dovetail Cultural Resource Group, and recommendations collected by the City of Fredericksburg, the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, and the Memorials Advisory Commission, the development of this exhibition was overseen by members of the museum’s African American History Committee. Representatives from the FAM’s staff and Board of Directors, the City of Fredericksburg, the Department of Community Planning, the Economic Development and Tourism Office, scholars and administrators from the University of Mary Washington and Germanna Community College, K-12 educators, leaders from local businesses and nonprofits, and community members all contributed ideas and input in the creation of the exhibit.

The Fredericksburg Area Museum invites museum members and the entire Fredericksburg community to the opening of this expanded exhibition on Saturday, November 5th from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. Attendees will hear remarks from community members and museum staff and receive the opportunity to view and learn more about the development of the updated exhibition. The opening will be free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided. For more information, visit

While the FAM will be closed to the public in January and February 2023 for installation of new exhibits, the Curator of African American History and Special Projects will offer a series of free, public presentations on the Auction Block exhibit on the following days:
Friday, January 6th at 12 p.m.
Thursday, January 12th at 7 p.m.
Monday, January 23rd at 11 a.m.
Saturday, February 11th at 2 p.m.
Sunday, February 26th at 1:30 p.m.

Support for A Monumental Weight: The ‘Auction Block’ in Fredericksburg, Virginia has been generously provided by the City of Fredericksburg, as a component of City Council’s effort to tell a more complete Fredericksburg story. Additionally, support has been provided by the Virginia Humanities SHARP Grant and Virginia Humanities.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a digital exhibit on the FAM’s website, offering deeper contextualization on the Block’s history, Virginia’s relationship to the market in enslaved people, and enslaved people’s experiences of being bought and sold. The digital component will launch immediately following the exhibition opening.

For more information, please email Dr. Gaila Sims at [email protected], or visit us at The FAM collects, researches, interprets, teaches, and preserves the history, heritage, and culture of the Fredericksburg region. We serve a diverse community through a commitment to inclusion, integrity, credibility, and relevance. We will facilitate an understanding and appreciation of how the acts of those who preceded us have shaped this community and the nation at large—providing both lessons and inspiration as we work together to forge a greater community.

Watch an interview about the new exhibition –