1sunfight’s Weblog

December 3, 2008

Slaves Helped Build the White House, US Capitol

Filed under: Daily Observations,Obama,politics,Uncategorized — Julie P @ 1:03 am
Tags: , ,

In January, President-elect Barack Obama and his family will make history, becoming the first African-American first family to move into the White House — a house with a history of slavery. In fact, the legacy of American presidents owning slaves goes all the way back to George Washington.

Twelve American presidents owned slaves and eight of them, starting with Washington, owned slaves while they lived in the White House. Almost from the very start, slaves were a common sight in the executive mansion. A list of construction workers building the White House in 1795 includes five slaves – named Tom, Peter, Ben, Harry and Daniel — all put to work as carpenters. Other slaves worked as masons in the government quarries, cutting the stone for early government buildings, including the White House and U.S. Capitol. According to records kept by the White House Historical Association, slaves often worked seven days a week — even in the hot and humid Washington summers.

Now, the Obamas are moving into the White House.

“The apple cart has been turned over here when you have the Obamas – the first African-American couple – now actually management and you are having in some case white Americans serving them,” says presidential historian Doug Brinkley.


My first reaction to while reading this commentary was, “Duh, we know slaves helped to build the White House and the nation’s capitol.  Talk about a statement of the obvious.”  It remains that way.  We are taught about this in history classes in grade school, high school, and in universities; we are taught about slavery in America and not just from “liberal” teachers and professors, but from our parents as well, at least this American was.  You see slavery is a part of history dating back to when we first arrived in the colonies in the 1600’s from Plymouth, England, to the family feud in the 1750’s, and through the Civil War.  Slavery is an undeniable part of our family history.  It was my fifth cousin who wrote the Emancipation Proclomation, thus freeing the slaves, and taking on significant meaning to my family and I.

So here we are 233 later electing and inaugurating our first black president.  Immense pride wells in me as witness history unfold, not only because won the presidency, and not just because of family’s role in colonial America, and early American history, but the victory that it symbolizes for all Americans to overcome our legacy of slavery and Jim Crowe that we are one country, not just a white America, or a black America.

“We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of defending the United States of America.”

On that cold day in January, Barack Obama will take the oath of Office in the West Front of the US Capitol.  I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Consitution of the United States.

I only wish that Barack Obama would take the oath of Office on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.



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