NFSJ Intern Nicole Han contributed to this piece
On Friday, July 28, NFSJ summer interns embarked on a field trip with NFSJ Executive Director Liora Norwich to Faneuil Hall and the Middle Passage Marker.
Faneuil Hall was constructed between 1740 and 1742 in Boston’s central marketplace, known as Dock Square, where merchants sold a wide range of goods. It was funded by Peter Faneuil, a wealthy merchant and slave trader whose ship, the Jolly Bachelor, was actively involved in the slave trade, and evidence points to the fact that enslaved people were traded at the building site. Faneuil Hall remains a marketplace with shopping, dining, and entertainment and is a popular and iconic attraction in Boston. While there is an exhibit acknowledging the part that its namesake played in the slave trade, is that enough of a reckoning? Should the name of Faneuil Hall be changed?
The group also visited the Boston Middle Passage Marker, which looks in two directions: to Boston Harbor, where enslaved Africans and Indigenous people arrived and departed, and also inward, down State Street, where these enslaved people and their descendants lived, worked, and fought for freedom. It describes the role Long Wharf and the Massachusetts colony played in enslaving millions, beginning in 1638 when the first documented enslaved Africans were brought here on the slave ship Desire. Starting in 1645, there were nearly 200 slaving voyages, which brought enslaved people through the horrific Middle Passage to the Americas as part of a “triangle trade” route between West Africa, Europe, North and South America and the Caribbean. Long Wharf served as a disembarkation point of the slave trade in Boston.
One of the biggest takeaways from the field trip was the intricate connection between modern-day assimilation and the historical presence of enslaved Africans arriving at Faneuil Hall during the late 1630s. According to NFSJ Intern Nicole Han, “As we walked from Quincy Market towards the Middle Passage Marker at Long Wharf, the crowded atmosphere of the city around us seemed to bring attention to the past. I couldn’t imagine ships arriving on Long Wharf, docking thousands of hopes and fears of enslaved Africans. Many were forced into an entirely new system and culture, which they had to navigate and assimilate into. The historical significance of Faneuil Hall became more poignant as we realized the challenges faced by countless immigrants today, trying to adapt to a new life. I personally felt respect for the layers of history that unfolded, reminding us of the importance of diversity. The history of Faneuil Hall provided a powerful foundation, reminding me that the struggle for acceptance, belonging, and appreciation of culture is a risky journey that transcends time.”
NFSJ Intern Nicole Han also created a video montage of the day. You can find that at https://youtu.be/xw6s4w1VeZM.