An upcoming chocolate shop hasn’t opened its doors yet, but it’s already provoking controversy due to its name and imagery, as the Oregonian first reported. The name, 1670 - A New American Chocolate House, likely refers to the year that the first chocolate house opened in the American colonies, when Dorothy Jones and Jane Barnard opened a public house in Boston to sell chocolate. Similarly, a picture in the window of three colonial-era ships was a likely reference to imported chocolate. However, local artist and sculptor Molly Alloy alerted Eater PDX to the idea that the date and ships were both closely associated with the Transatlantic slave trade.
In an open letter posted on Facebook Alloy writes,
“Very many people who walk by this display will immediately understand that a ship of that silhouette, transporting cacao in the year 1670, would be closely connected to the trans-atlantic slave trade and likely to also transport human beings in horrific conditions... That may have seemed like a cute reference for your business; less cute is that the same exact year marks the ignition of a stark rise in the enslavement of Africans for cacao production to meet the rising demand of this new market. Slavery has in fact remained ingrained in the cacao industry all the way to the African child laborers of the 20th and 21st centuries.”
They also note that, “Cacao plantations and chocolate houses that inspire this brand were on land stolen from indigenous peoples in a period of ongoing and systematic genocide up and down the American continents. And that the land we are on today is also stolen; and that Native people today are still violently and systematically oppressed.”
Alloy and some fellow artists took action by posting information about the slave trade and colonization on the window of the store, as well as scannable links for additional information. Later Tuesday morning, the entire sign was removed.
The story is a familiar one, as 2016 saw the infamous Saffron Colonial scandal break out. Eater PDX has reached out to this new chocolate shop, but has not received a response. This is a developing story and will be updated with any new information.
Update, Wednesday November 13, 9:37 a.m.: Eater PDX incorrectly identified Molly Alloy’s pronouns in the original piece, and regrets the error. The article has been corrected.