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  • 2 years ago
Upon Whose Backs Were the Capitol and the White House Built?

Upon Whose Backs Were the Capitol and the White House Built?

From 1790-1863 half the workforce that built the White House and the Capitol were enslaved people. In May of 2005 a bipartisan task force was created to recognize the work done by enslaved men in the nation's capital due to an investigative story in 2000 by WRC-TV reporter Ed Hotaling. He found US Treasurypromissory notes to those who hired enslaved workers. Headlines in the London Independent read "White House and Capitol built by $5-a-month slaves”. “Temples of Freedom Founded on Slavery", said the Times of London. 

When planning for the Capitol began, slave labor was not discussed. The government, architects and contractors sought white skilled craftsmen and laborers from Virginia and Maryland. One of the commissioners in charge of the construction was Thomas Jefferson and it was he who made the decision to use the least costly labor. In other words those enslaved. Approximately half of all those enslaved in the United States at the time lived in Virginia and Maryland and were hire