A Monumental Weight Exhibit Image

A Monumental Weight: The ‘Auction Block’ in Fredericksburg, Virginia

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.


In November 2022, the Fredericksburg Area Museum (FAM) opened new exhibition A Monumental Weight: The Auction Block in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Recognizing the immense historical and emotional significance of this complex object, the FAM worked with members of the community to create this exhibit.


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.

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. Additional support has been provided by the Virginia Humanities SHARP Grant and Virginia Humanities.

The Virtual Exhibition

The exhibition is accompanied by a digital exhibit, 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.

A Monumental Weight Virtual Exhibition Home Page

For more information, please email Dr. Gaila Sims at gsims@famva.org.

Auction Block Panels
Visitors read panels at the exhibit opening on November 5, 2022. Image courtesy Barclay Sims Company.