Across the country, demonstrators roused to action by the killing of George Floyd have called new attention to how we look at and commemorate history. Protesters have pulled down monuments to Confederate officers. Here in Boston, a statue of Christopher Columbus was beheaded, and a years long push to rename Faneuil Hall is seeing new life. The landmark is named for 18th century merchant Peter Faneuil, who owned and traded enslaved people. Kevin Peterson, founder of the New Democracy Coalition, has been pushing for a name change. He spoke with WGBH All Things Considered host Arun Rath. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Arun Rath: So you've been at this for a while now, but you haven't gotten much traction from city officials. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has said in the past that changing the name of Faneuil Hall would amount to erasing history. How do you respond to that?

Kevin Peterson: Well, I think it's a fallacious disposition. It's one that's wrong, it's one that doesn't reflect reality, really. There's no way that anyone can erase history. We can suppress history or we can add to and just really amplify history. What we're trying to do with the Faneuil Hall project is move towards racial reconciliation in the city by surfacing some suppressed truths around the history of African-American people in Boston. It comes as a surprise to many Bostonians that slavery is at the base of its economy. Before Boston was in fact a city, when Boston was a town, there were slaves in the area. The Massachusetts Bay Colony was the first state - it eventually became a state - that inaugurated slave codes to make slavery legal. Slavery is at the basis of our history. We need to have some reckoning around that. Part of that reckoning goes to pointing to the fact that Peter Faneuil was a slave owner. Upon his death at 42, he owned five slaves, and he ordered in his will that those five slaves be given to his sister.

He had no sympathy at all for the sanctity of African life. We need to look at the building named for Peter Fanueil - a public building by the way - and reorient our position and our attitude by changing the name of Faneuil Hall. This is a public building. There are 140 businesses and shops in Faneuil Hall, and none are owned by blacks. You need to look towards justice, but not by tearing down Faneuil Hall, but simply changing the name.

Rath: Remind us a bit, because there's been some controversy within the controversy over what to do about Faneuil Hall - artist Steve Locke had been planning to build a monument to enslaved people at Faneuil Hall. He dropped the proposal last year in the face of criticism from groups like the local chapter of the NAACP. I understand you were also opposed to it. Could you explain the opposition to that?

Peterson: Well, we basically felt that Mayor Walsh, who we believe was clandestinely behind this proposal by Locke, did not vet this proposal through leadership within the black community. That caused a great deal of friction and pushback and Locke understandably felt some frustration around political shenanigans being played by city hall and dropped the project. I was in favor of there being a hearing, at least, for Locke's proposal, although I opposed the esthetics and I opposed the political shenanigans that were being played. I'm sorry Mr. Locke became a casualty of this, but this is part of the ongoing games, political sport, that's come out of city hall with regard to renaming Faneuil Hall. That's unfortunate. I am happy to hear that the mayor has said that he's open to conversations around changing the name.

At the same time, it's unfortunate that we've tried to reach Mr. Walsh a number of times since he's made that statement, and we've had no contact with him at all. We are here at Faneuil Hall fasting and praying and hoping that that the mayor will be open to having a meeting very soon so that we can plan a full-fledged citywide meeting here at Faneuil Hall so that citizens throughout the 27 neighborhoods of the city can come and testify. The point of the testimony is that we want citizens to come together and talk about race in this city with the ultimate goal - two ultimate goals. One is renaming Faneuil Hall, and the other is having deep dialogue and conversation about the state of racism within the city so that we move towards healing and reconciliation.

Rath: In terms of ideas for moving forward. You, you and others have talked about possibly seeing Faneuil Hall renamed for Crispus Attucks. He was the Black man killed by British soldiers in the Boston Massacre of 1770. Tell us about what why you would want to see that?

Peterson: Well, I think it would be a nice gesture to name the building after Crispus Attucks. He was part Native American, part African. He was so enamored by the town fathers after he was murdered that his body lay in state at Faneuil Hall. Crispus Attucks has a wonderful legacy. And wouldn't it be wonderful if we name this building - Faneuil Hall - after a real hero and not a slave trader?

But there are other options. Some people are opting for Elizabeth Freeman Hall. She was the African slave who lived in the middle of the state who sued for her freedom. A suit led to the eventual end of slavery in Massachusetts. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had Elizabeth Freeman Hall? So the options are open in terms of what we could call this building.

What's more important, what's more pressing, is that we have a public process to talk about changing the name, and having deep dialogue and conversation about how we reconstitute ourselves as a city with regard to racism. Racism in the city of Boston is structurally deep and it's harmful to a whole race of people who suffer disadvantage and racial cleavage every day. We need to move towards making Boston better in terms of race.