Fillmore's role in slavery faulted by civil rights group

Feb 11, 2015

If the name of the late President Millard Fillmore is placed on any new buildings or sites, a local civil rights group says the "whole story" must be told.

Fillmore was a major force in Buffalo's educational and cultural arenas. But Frank Mesiah, president of the Buffalo NAACP, says Fillmore also signed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Mesiah's group is urging local leaders to think twice before authorizing any additional tributes to Fillmore.

Frank Mesiah, left, talks with Rep. Brian Higgins
Credit Congressman Higgins Twitter page / WBFO News

"We're saying don't name it after Millard Fillmore unless you're going to put the whole story in -- that Millard Fillmore was also somebody who was responsible for sending slaves back to their masters," Mesiah told WBFO.

NAACP members have heard rumblings that there might future efforts to pay tribute to the former president by placing his name on structures or sites.

Mesiah said Fillmore's influence on Buffalo is undisputed. Fillmore served as chancellor of the University of Buffalo and was driving force in creating a local library system. Still, Mesiah believes any tributes should be blocked unless they include disclosures that Fillmore helped to maintain slavery.

"We're saying let's tell the whole history. Let's talk about Fillmore and his attitude toward African-Americans," he said.