1670 New American Chocolate House

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"Portland building removes chocolate shop signage after artist links branding to slave trade."

"Signage outside an upcoming Portland chocolate cafe, 1670 New American Chocolate House, was removed Tuesday morning after an artist linked its branding to the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The artist, Molly Alloy, pasted words and a dotted arrow to connect the three colonial ships printed outside the 1670′s future home to slavery. The cafe, found at The Rodney building in Portland’s upscale Pearl District, is expected to open by year’s end."
   - The Oregonian/OregonLive, 12 November 2019    

Signage intervention
Open letter from Molly Alloy

Molly Alloy, Facebook post November 11: 

To the people bringing (yet another) racist, colonial restaurant concept to Portland:
(Shortened for insta/ plz repost widely)
Very many people who walk by your display (2nd pic) 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. So what is the story that you are trying to tell us by using this as your branding? There are no excuses in this day and age for such complete erasure of historical context. The year 1670, my collaborators and I learned through minor research, was the year a public house was opened to sell chocolate in the (“New American”) colonies of what is now the United States. 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.
Let’s not forget that the 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.
As artists and community members we felt compelled to resist the erasure of all this context; we could not passively support the giddy perpetuation of wealth built on violence that your window display flaunts. So, we adjusted the display to create an opportunity for truth and learning; a potential site for collective dialogue. If the full truth of the time and industry your brand celebrates does not suit you, I eagerly hope you find a name and concept that have a different story to tell about why your business belongs in our community. Sincerely,
Molly Alloy
#endchocolateslavery @ The Rodney


Gudmundson, Lowell, and Justin Wolfe, eds (2010). Blacks and Blackness in Central America: Between Race and Place (Duke University Press, 2010).


Gay, James F. (2009). "Chocolate Production and Uses in 17th and 18th Century North America." in Grivetti and Shapiro, eds. Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage, 2009. 

The oldest record of North Americans trading in cocoa beans is found in the diary of Massachusetts Bay’s mint-master John Hull. In the winter of 1667 – 1668, he noted the loss of  “our ship Providence … cast away on the French shore … [carrying] … cocoa." One of the earliest records of chocolate in North America (New England region) dates to 1670 when Dorothy Jones and Jane Barnard were given approval to serve “ Coffee and Chucaletto" in houses of "publique Entertainment” by the selectmen of Boston [2] . Did Jones and Barnard manufacture the chocolate themselves or did they import it? The answer is unclear. The oldest British customs record showing cocoa arriving in America reads: "1682 … Jamaica … to … Boston ” [3] . Was this the first shipment? Perhaps. There may be earlier examples yet to be discovered."