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Sitka 'slave auction' organizers to change name of Alaska Day event

  • Author: Suzanna Caldwell
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published October 19, 2015

Organizers of a Sitka fundraiser known as the "slave auction" said they'll be officially changing the name of the event, but they won't stop people from using the original term.

Auction organizer Mary Magnuson said in a phone interview Monday that the event will be listed as the "Alaska Day Auction" in official Alaska Day committee materials.

"People in Sitka will call it the 'slave auction,'" she said. "The official line is not going to have that in it anymore."

The annual event, which has been hosted in Sitka for 30 years, drew criticism Sunday from the Anchorage chapter of the NAACP, which called it "inflammatory and insensitive" and called for a name change. The auction features volunteers offering two hours of their time to perform a variety of chores.

In a phone interview Monday, Anchorage NAACP Chapter President Wanda Laws said she was pleased to see the name was changed, at least on paper.

"You know the old saying, 'you can't legislate hearts and minds?' The truth of the matter is at least the name is changed," she said. "That is the one thing we were asking."

Magnuson said the Pioneer Bar event raised $3,000 for the Sitka Fire Department Sunday night with several hundred people in attendance, many of whom were aware of the sudden controversy surrounding the name. She said she was "offended" by the accusation that people in Sitka are racist. There were "no shackles, no oppression, just raising money for the first responders we all love," she said of the event.

"As much as this is getting blown up," she said, "I'm offended that this political correctness is trying to be pushed on us and making us look like jerks."

Laws maintained Monday that organizers should have known that the name would spark outrage.

"In this day and age, to think you can have an event called the 'slave auction,' and to think that people won't be offended by that at some point or another, is pretty surprising," she said.

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