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Whitewashed – The Civil War Forgotten Battle of New Market’s Black Troops

District of Columbia. Company E, 4th U.S. Colored Infantry, at Fort Lincoln

Black Soldiers fought the ancestors of modern day Republicans during the Civil War…

After what I saw today in the Sessions confirmation hearing…It is a good time to remind them of that fact.

Note – you will have to go to the source site (The Atlantic) links provided here to see the footnotes.

Heroes of a Civil War Victory That History Forgot

ON THE MORNING OF SEPTEMBER 29, 1864, as dawn broke over eastern Virginia, some 7001 black soldiers in the 4th and 6th regiments of the Union Army walked directly into enemy fire. The ultimate target of their assault was Richmond, the Confederate capital, just 15 miles north of where they stood. Success against the rebels’ fortress, which had never been touched in four years of war, would be a knife in the heart of the Confederacy, which only partly explains the intrepid action that day by units of what were then called the United States Colored Troops (USCT).

The approximately 1,8002 soldiers arrayed against them were members of the Texas Confederacy, opponents of emancipation who were notorious for an especially sharp loathing of African Americans. When one of them saw the 4th and 6th approaching over the swampy terrain, he shouted, “n—ers, boys, n—-ers,” reveling in the prospect of what his unit called a “coon fight.”3

Sergeant Major Christian Fleetwood

Less than two hours later, almost half the members of the 4th and 6th were injured, missing, or dead. The white officers who led the charge had been the first to die, and the black troops who took over from them were next. After that battle, Sergeant Major Christian Fleetwood of the 4th Regiment wrote in his diary: “When the charge was started, our Color guard was full; two sergeants and ten corporals. Only one of the twelve came off that field on his own feet. Most of them are there still…. [It] was sheer madness.”

The Union fell back, but only briefly. More than a thousand soldiers from three additional USCT regiments soon returned to finish the attack. And once again, as the white officers fell, says historian Noah Andre Trudeau, “it fell to black sergeants to keep the unit organized, keep it moving forward, keep it coherent. They were taking over the units under fire, with men falling all around them.”

By the time the battle was won, at about 8:30 that morning, it had taken an estimated 800-plus Union casualties—some 130 black troops killed in action, approximately 660 wounded—and an estimated 45 others were missing in action.

News and official battle reports all testified to the courage, grit, and skill that the USCT troops showed under fire, settling any doubt of their fighting spirit. “They never halted or faltered,” the New York Herald correspondent wrote, “though their ranks were sadly thinned by the charge, and the slashing was filled with the slain and wounded of their number.”

No fewer than 14 African-American soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism in what came to be known as the Battle of New Market Heights. Five of them were for leading the troops forward after their officers fell. Four were recognized for taking up their regimental flags from wounded or killed bearers, a job that turns a man into a clear, slow-moving target. One soldier, according to his Medal of Honor citation, urged his men forward as he managed to load and fire his weapon with only one arm, the other having been so badly mutilated it needed immediate amputation.

For all that, New Market Heights is little more than a footnote in Civil War history—a battle, scholars agree, that deserves better.

Its relative obscurity derives in part from lack of access to the site. Only the largest battlefields were acquired in the years just after the war. Later, given the racist Jim Crow laws enacted after Reconstruction, there would have been considerable resistance in the South to a celebration of black heroism. The land at New Market Heights is now divided into parcels and will remain that way until the National Park Service (NPS) can convince its owners to sell or donate it, which so far they have not agreed to do. In the meantime, the Civil War Trust has listed New Market Heights among its  “most endangered” sites4.

That lack of access inhibits both scholarly and public interest. “A key part of battlefield research, any battlefield research, is walking the ground and understanding the terrain and reaching deductions from that,” says Robert Krick, a historian at the Richmond National Battlefield who has written several books on the Civil War. “The fact that there’s been no preserved property at New Market Heights also prevents casual visitors from seeing it, appreciating it, getting enthusiastic about it. [It’s] just not quite on their radar.”

The Battle of New Market Heights is also obscured by the ten months of fighting for Richmond that followed. More battles were lost than won during that time, and New Market Heights, while critical, was not conclusive. “The New Market Heights operation was only one of several efforts to breach the lines at Petersburg and Richmond in the summer of 1864,” says Pulitzer-Prize-winning Civil War historian James McPherson. “Most of them were not ultimately successful, so [New Market Heights] just didn’t get the same kind of publicity.”

Literally thousands of Medals of Honor were issued during the Civil War, almost a third of which were later rescinded due to fraud or lack of merit.5 But the 14 awarded for New Market Heights were never even questioned, and only four others were awarded to African Americans in the Union Army during the whole course of the war.

Portraits of 15 African-American soldiers and sailors who received Medals of Honor for service in the Civil War, the Indian Wars, and the Spanish-American War.

Civil War historians—McPherson included—cite contemporary reports to confirm that actions which rose “above and beyond the call of duty” at New Market Heights would have justified such medals in any of America’s later wars. Captains and officers, almost all of whom were white, spoke of the black troops’ bravery in their logs, reports, and correspondence. Major publications, including the New York Times and New York Herald6, covered the victories of the USCT, and news of the heroism shown at New Market Heights drew special notice. On October 5, a week after the battle, Civil War correspondent Thomas Morris Chester wrote that “the officers and men of these regiments…wiped out effectually the imputation against the fighting qualities of the colored troops.”

Less than 20 years after the war ended, in the time of Jim Crow, that reputation for bravery was effectively withdrawn. But for later generations, the medals awarded for New Market Heights preserved the USCT’s record for valor. In that respect, at least, they were more fortunate than the African-American soldiers who came after them….Read the rest Here…

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2017 in Black History

 

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A Pardon for Marcus Garvey?

Nearly 100 years ago, Marcus Garvey was the central figure in a black self-help movement though the Universal Negro Improvement Association. He would champion “Back to Africa”, and actually start a steamship line. Unquestionably, Garvey was an early target of J. Edgar Hoover’s racism.

Marcus Garvey’s son wants President Obama to pardon his famous father. Time is running out.

Julius Garvey

Julius Garvey, the son of black nationalist Marcus Garvey, is pacing the lobby of a Washington hotel. His collar is starched. His glasses polished. He holds a stack of fliers displaying photos of his famous father under a headline that reads, “The Exoneration of Marcus Garvey.”

Julius Garvey, an 83-year-old vascular surgeon, is on a mission to clear his father’s name, tarnished by a 1923 federal mail-fraud conviction that he believes was bogus. He wants the country’s first African American president to pardon the fiery founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Marcus Garvey, who died in 1940, led a “back to Africa” campaign that made him a seminal figure in the push for racial and economic justice for black people.

“My father was central to the civil rights movement in the early 20th century,” said Julius Garvey, who lives on Long Island. “His organization was the dominant civil rights organization. It shaped the thinking of that part of the century. It gave birth to the Harlem Renaissance. Black is beautiful — my father was the basis for that ideology.”

Marcus Garvey’s activism is chronicled in the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture. His son was among the 7,000 dignitaries, celebrities and elected officials who were invited to the museum’s opening, where President Obama spoke about the nation’s history of racial oppression.

Marcus Garvey, 1924

The Obama administration rejected a posthumous pardon for Marcus Garvey five years ago. And Julius Garvey says he knows that time is running out, both for him and for Obama’s tenure in the White House.

“It’s urgent from the point of view of this president, because his term is up,” Garvey says. “The point is the injustice has been allowed to sit for [almost] 100 years. It is a continuing injustice that needs to be corrected.”

Marcus Mosiah Garvey was an immigrant from Jamaica who had already foundedthe Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) when he arrived in the United States in 1916. Eventually, the UNIA claimed millions of members around the world — although those figures remain in dispute.

In 1918, Garvey established the Negro World newspaper and a year later bought an auditorium in Harlem. He called it Liberty Hall, where thousands flocked to hear him speak.

“Black people are subjects of ostracism,” Garvey said in 1921 to thunderous applause. “It is sad that our humanity has shown us no more love — no greater sympathy than we are experiencing. Wheresoever you go throughout the world, the black man is discarded as ostracized, as relegated to the lowest of things — social, political and economical.”

Garvey preached that the problem could be solved only through black pride and self-reliance.

In 1921, the UNIA elected Garvey “President of Africa.” In an iconic photo, Garvey and UNIA members marched through the streets of Harlem in military uniforms, carrying banners that read “We Want a Black Civilization.”

To ferry black people and cargo to Africa, Garvey launched a steamship line, which he called the Black Star Line. The company sold stock for $5 a share, allowing black people to own a piece of the steamship.

This sale, along with Garvey’s rhetoric and following, attracted government attention. Soon after World War I, Garvey was targeted by future FBI director J. Edgar Hoover — as part of a “lifelong obsession to neutralize the rise of a black liberator,” Julius Garvey said.

In documents released later, the FBI acknowledged that it began investigating Garvey to find reasons to “deport him as an undesirable alien.”…Read the Rest Here

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2016 in Black History, The Post-Racial Life

 

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The Second Nat Turner Rebellion

Nat Turner was neither the first, or the last black man held in slavery to rebel. He was just the white slave owners worst nightmare come true. During the Revolutionary War entire counties didn’t supply troops to the American Army because of fear of local slave rebellions. Despite the Southern Myth of “happy” plantation life, slave owner knew they were on thin ice, and exercised extreme brutality as a means to keep the slaves cowed. Bacon’s Rebellion, a prelude to the Revolutionary War was fueled and fought by slaves and indentured servants. It is never listed as a slave revolt, because the leader Nathaniel Bacon was an Aristocrat.

Not sure I can see the benefit of what Kalifah, mentioned in the story below, is doing. Black History isn’t just black history…It is American History.

The Racial Politics of Nat Turner Tours

The subject of an acclaimed new movie, the 1831 slave revolt led by Turner is also the focus of two tours, one black and one white, in a region still divided over Turner’s legacy.

Nate Parker entered his film The Birth of a Nation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival with little publicity and no distribution deal. It emerged having garnered the festival’s Grand Jury Prize, Audience Award, and a deal with Fox Searchlight for $17.5 million—the largest deal in Sundance history. Parker both directed and plays the central role of Nat Turner, who planned and carried out the most violent slave insurrection in American history in Virginia in 1831 that left 55 white men, women, and children dead. …

The controversy surrounding Parker’s past has obscured a far more interesting story currently playing out in Southampton County, where for the first time efforts are underway to interpret the 1831 slave rebellion for the general public. It is a promising development that comes amidst reports of police brutality within the black community, an active Black Lives Matter campaign, and a presidential election that has bitterly divided the nation along racial lines on the eve of the conclusion of our nation’s first black presidency. It also points to an increased willingness on the part of museums, historic sites, and even Hollywood to confront the violence of America’s slave past, but it is not without controversy.

It is difficult to exaggerate the challenges involved in interpreting Nat Turner’s controversial life in the place where so much blood was shed. This history remains contested ground for the black and white residents of Jerusalem (now Courtland) and the surrounding county. Local debates about how to interpret and remember Nat Turner point to tightly embraced competing memories of the past that fall along racial lines and more specific disagreements about what kinds of historical sources ought to be given priority, and who has the right to tell these stories.

Such differences stretch all the way back to the event itself and its aftermath, which included the execution of free and enslaved blacks by a community that feared additional violence, the eventual capture of Turner, his trial, and subsequent execution.

Efforts to interpret Turner and his slave rebellion began in 2002, when the Southampton County Historical Society (SCHS) gained possession of the Vaughan House—the only extant building dating back to the 1831 insurrection. Rebecca Vaughan, along with her two sons, niece, and overseer, were killed by Turner’s followers. Once restored, the home will serve as the centerpiece of an exhibit that explores the violent deaths of its occupants as well as the story of slavery in the community and the events that led up to and followed the bloody uprising. Its centerpiece will be the sword that Turner used throughout much of the rebellion.

Much of the history will eventually be shared through roughly 40 wayside markers at 17 stops throughout the county that will be accessible by foot and by car. Early drafts of individual markers reveal a clear commitment to deal with the horrors of chattel slavery in Southampton County as well as its connection to broader events. Visitors will be able to read about obscure slave rebellions such as The Plant Cutter Revolt of 1663, George Boxley Rebellion in 1811, as well as better known moments such as Denmark Vesey’s Revolt in 1822 and Gabriel’s Rebellion of 1800.

Turner’s story is told alongside other notable local African Americans, including Dred Scott, whose unsuccessful legal plea for his freedom was decided by the Supreme Court just a few years before the start of the Civil War. John Brown—not to be confused with the famous abolitionist—escaped slavery and eventually made his way to Great Britain, where he published his autobiography with the help of The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. Finally, Anthony Gardiner traveled to Liberia with the help of the American Colonization Society and eventually became that nation’s ninth president. By highlighting the lives of these men, the SCHS hopes to frame the broader narrative around the quest for freedom and civil rights.

Any attempt to interpret a story like this for the general public, however, raises difficult questions of interpretation. Is it possible to tell a story that transcends racial divisions? How do you interpret the killing of women and children—a subject that even Nate Parker, who characterizes Turner as a hero, chose to avoid almost entirely in his movie? Most importantly, how should we understand Turner’s actions? Was he a freedom fighter, a murderer, or something else entirely? In short, what is his legacy?

These questions matter to Rick Francis, who is the Southampton County Circuit Court Clerk and belongs to the SCHS. Francis was born and raised in Southampton County and is descended from Nat Turner’s owner. From a very early age, he absorbed and re-told stories passed down by his father and others about members of his extended family, who ended up “on the business end of his ax” as well as others who were aided by local slaves and managed to survive.

While Francis fully supports the efforts of the SCHS to interpret Nat Turner’s rebellion, including its emphasis on white supremacy and the violence of slavery, he betrays a certain uneasiness when asked to evaluate Turner himself and the legacy of his actions. In a recent interview with 60 Minutes, Francis questioned whether emancipation is what motivated Turner and said that whether or not he was a freedom fighter “is not my call to make.”

Francis believes that it is possible for the SCHS—an organization that he admits is overwhelmingly white—to tell an “objective” history of Nat Turner through electronic maps, video, a driver app, artifacts, and primary sources such as The Confessions of Nat Turner penned by white Southampton lawyer Thomas Gray. Gray’s interview with Turner while in his jail cell during his trial was published shortly after his execution. It is an indispensible source for historians, but it remains a challenge to interpret. Francis’s goal from the beginning remains for the public interpretation to stay as far away from the “saint or sinner debate” and “let people come up with their own interpretation.”

But for H. Khalif Khalifah, this is neither satisfactory nor does it allay concerns that the story of Turner itself is being told by the wrong people. Born in Gosport, Alabama, and raised in New York City, Khalifah was introduced to Turner’s history during the height of the civil rights movement through publications distributed by radical black political organizations that referenced the slave as one among many “revolutionaries and militants who had waged a physical fight to Free Black People.” Trained as a master printer, Khalifah eventually started his own company that marketed books about black history to black communities.

In the mid ’80s, Khalifah and his wife moved to Southampton County, Virginia, on 123 acres of the “birth land” of Nat Turner, where he established the Nat Turner Library and Nat Turner Trail tours. He has had very little contact with the SCHS and is not involved in the organization of the new exhibits and trail tour. This distance reflects a deep skepticism that a largely white organization can accurately engage the general public about Turner’s story and the history of slavery.

Khalifah’s tours are geared specifically to African-American tourists and he rarely allows white visitors to join. When asked why, he suggested that “the pain that was visited upon black people is so brutal that emotions may become aroused against white people on the tour.” The language used along the tour adds to his concerns about how whites might respond. Stops along the tour are referred to as “battle sites,” while Turner and his men are referred to as the “Black Liberation Army of 1831.”…The Rest Here

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2016 in Black History

 

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The Star Spangled Banner…Made by Slave Owners

As usual, there were black hands behind the creation of the US Flag which flew over Ft  McHenry and inspired the Star Spangled Banner.

The Slave Owner Who Stitched the Original Star-Spangled Banner

Mary Young Pickersgill’s deeds made herself an American icon. The name of the slave who aided in her most famous labor has been lost to history.

Image result for Ft MchenryThe 30-foot by 42-foot star spangled banner that inspired the national anthem was made in the summer of 1812 by a 37-year-old Baltimore widow named Mary Young Pickersgill.

She completed the task in six weeks, working late into the night with the assistance of her 13-year-old daughter Caroline Pickersgill, 13-year-old niece Eliza Young, and 15-year-old niece Margaret Young. They were joined by a 13-year-old indentured servant, Grace Wisher, who was African-American, but not a slave and likely working under the same arrangement as she would have been had she been white. 

By some accounts, they were also aided by an African-American who was a slave and who is listed by the census as living in the rented premises that served as Pickersgill’s residence as well as place of business.  The slave’s name is lost to history.

The flag was commissioned at the start of the War of 1812 by U.S. Army Major General George Armistead, the commander at Fort McHenry at the entrance to Baltimore Harbor. Armistead wrote in his instructions: “It is my desire to have a flag so large that the British will have no difficulty seeing it from a distance.”

That meant Pickersgill needed a bigger space than the flag-making shop she had opened after the death of her husband to support herself and the only one of her four children to survive past infancy. Her daughter would write in a letter to Armistead’s daughter:

The flag being so very large, mother was obliged to obtain permission from the proprietors of Claggetts brewery which was in our neighborhood, to spread it out in their malt house; and I remember seeing my mother down on the floor, placing the stars.”

The task would later be termed Herculean, but Hercules was a guy and therefore not likely to have been able to demonstrate such precision along with considerable endurance. Call it Pickersgill-ean. She added a final touch, without which Francis Scott Key might never had been inspired to write the poem that became the lyrics for “The Star Spangled Banner.”

“After the completion of the flag, she superintended the topping of it, having it fastened in the most secure manner to prevent its being torn away by (cannon) balls,” the daughter reported in the letter. “The wisdom of her precaution was shown during the engagement: many shots piercing it, but it still remained firm to the staff.”

Following the battle, Armistead must have understood that this was not just any flag and that Pickersgill was not just any flag maker. Pickersgill’s daughter would write to Armistead’s daughter:

“Your father (Armistead) declared that no one but the maker of the flag should mend it, and requested that the rents should merely be bound around.”

With her renown as the maker of the original star spangled banner, Pickersgill prospered enough to purchase the building where she lived and worked. She was also able to found America’s first organization dedicated to assisting women who had fallen on hard times. Her Impartial Female Humane Society arranged for employment and housing for its beneficiaries, as well as school vouchers for their children. She subsequently established a home for aged women and then one for men.

Pickersgill was a pioneering feminist ideal of all-American entrepreneurship and civic responsibility and she would have seemed the perfect person to have made the Star Spangled Banner were it not for a document dated April 14, 1857. 

As cited in the book Mary Young Pickersgill Flag Maker of the Star-Spangled Banner,” the document passed title of Pickersgill’s building to her daughter at the time of her death six months later. It added:

“Also the following described or mentioned Negro slaves for life to wit: Emily aged thirty years, Jane aged twenty four, and Julia aged twenty four years and Maurice boy three years and also all the furniture goods and chattels and effects belonging to me and now in the dwelling house.”

Pickersgill apparently no longer had the unnamed female slave, who would have been older than those who are listed. The new slaves – for whom no last names are listed — were all born subsequent to the making of the Star Spangled Banner. …More Here

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2016 in American Greed, Black History, Women

 

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Carla Hayden – Librarian of Congress

My father was a Historian. In developing for a book he did research at the Library of Congress. Got to go with him several times, and it is an awesome, if somewhat overwhelming place. In those days, they really didn’t know what they had there. You could spend decades trying to wade though even a small portion of it.

Chief Justice John Roberts, left, shakes hands with the new Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, left, after administering the oath of office during a ceremony in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016. Hayden, a former Chicago children’s librarian, is the first woman and African American to serve in the role. Holding the bible is Hayden’s mother, Colleen, and watching is House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis.

Carla Hayden breaks new ground as 14th librarian of Congress

Carla Hayden, a career librarian who grew up in Chicago and kept Baltimore’s libraries open during last year’s civic unrest, was sworn in Wednesday as the 14th Librarian of Congress, becoming the first woman and the first African-American to lead the national library.

Hayden, 64, was the longtime CEO of Baltimore’s library system. She was nominated last year by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate to head the Library of Congress. She will serve a 10-year term, a change from her predecessors, for whom the position was considered a lifetime appointment.

Hayden was sworn in Wednesday by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, with her hand on Abraham Lincoln’s Bible. It’s part of the library’s collection and was used by Obama at his inauguration.

“As a descendant of people who were denied the right to read, to now have the opportunity to serve and lead the institution that is the national symbol of knowledge, is a historic moment,” Hayden said to applause from a crowd that included numerous members of Congress and actor and literacy advocate LeVar Burton, the longtime host of “Reading Rainbow.”

Among her goals is to move aggressively to digitize precious material in the library’s collection of 162 million items, the largest in the world, and she said she plans to seek corporate sponsorships and philanthropic contributions to aid those efforts. The library has an annual budget of $640 million.

“Digitizing … is rather expensive and labor-intensive,” she told The Associated Press in an interview after the swearing-in. “You can’t just take a photo and say, ‘Here, we’ll just put it up.’”

In addition to serving the American public’s research needs, the library has a professional staff that does research for Congress, and it oversees the U.S. Copyright Office. The library’s properties include a massive underground vault in Culpeper, Virginia, where audio and visual material is stored.

Hayden becomes just the third professional librarian to lead the Library of Congress. Her predecessor, James Billington, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and served for 28 years, was a Russia scholar.

“She’s a pro. She knows what she’s doing,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said at the ceremony.

Although he was well-liked on Capitol Hill, Billington was criticized for failing to keep up with advances in technology in a series of increasingly scathing reports from the Government Accountability Office...Read the Rest Here

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2016 in Giant Negros

 

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Black Folks Built the White House…And the Capital Too!

Michelle Obama mentioned that slaves built the White House  and the Fu News Moron crew goes crazy!

Fox host has white hot meltdown because Michelle Obama said slaves built the White House

Michelle Obama may have spoken Monday night, but Fox News Radio host John Gibson was so overwhelmed he had to unleash his rage in a blog post this afternoon.

During her speech, Obama addressed the “shame of servitude,” referencing the history of American slavery. “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves — and I watch my daughters — two beautiful, intelligent, black young women — playing with their dogs on the White House lawn. And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters — and all our sons and daughters — now take for granted that a woman can be President of the United States.”

Gibson couldn’t take it, according to Fusion. “A couple relevant facts,” he began. “It was 1792. The land for the District of Columbia was ceded to the federal government by two slave states. Slaves lived in the area and were employed in building much of the capitol. What, then, is the purpose of appropriating the construction of the White House to black slave workers, neglecting to mention other workers?”

Slaves, of course, were never “workers” in the sense that they were paid a living wage, allowed to quit whenever they want, had rights and could go home at the end of a long day. The history of America was built on the forced migration and forced labor of people of color that were enslaved by wealthy whites. To associate it with free white workers diminishes the horror they faced.

Gibson says that there were just as many white workers as slaves working on the White House when it was constructed. That’s outright false. The White House Historical Association verifies that there were indeed white workers, but the vast majority of the workers were black people, who were both slave and free. This was in large part due to problems finding enough white workers willing and able to do the work.

Bad News Fau Moron…Slaves indeed built the white House, the Capital Building, and a number of other Government buildings in Washington, DC. Most of the skilled workers at that time were slaves.

The White House Was, in Fact, Built by Slaves

Along with the Capitol and other iconic buildings in Washington, D.C.

…Up until a few decades ago, little attention was paid to looking into who actually laid the foundations and put up the walls of the White House. But what documentation exists today shows that many of Washington, D.C.’s most iconic government buildings, including the White House, were built by slaves.

In 2005, Congress put together a task force to shed light on the subject. After months of research, the commission announced that while it would never be able to tell the full story of the slaves who built these buildings, there was no doubt that they were intricately involved in the work, Alexander Lane reported for PolitiFact.

“Indifference by by earlier historians, poor record keeping, and the silence of the voiceless classes have impeded our ability in the twenty-first century to understand fully the contributions and privations of those who toiled over the seven decades from the first cornerstone laying to the day of emancipation in the District of Columbia,” Senate Historian Richard Baker and Chief of the House of Representatives Office of History and Preservation Kenneth Kato wrote in a foreword to the report.

From a geographical standpoint alone, it should come as no surprise that slave laborers were used to build the nation’s capital. Washington, D.C., was built on landed ceded to the federal government by Virginia and Maryland, and at the time the Potomac region was home to almost half of the country’s 750,000 slaves, Lane reports.

While the White House Historical Association reports that the D.C. commissioners originally tried to bring cheap workers over from Europe to build the new capital, their recruitment efforts fell short. As a result, they forced local slaves to provide the labor, often renting workers from their masters for year-long periods of time.

“Slaves were likely involved in all aspects of construction, including carpentry, masonry, carting, rafting, plastering, glazing and painting, the task force reported,” Lane writes. “And slaves appear to have shouldered alone the grueling work of sawing logs and stones.”

image: http://thumbs.media.smithsonianmag.com//filer/34/bd/34bd3b1b-c277-4f41-9a79-75e17bd66bb3/african-americans-1790s.jpg__800x450_q85_crop_upscale.jpg

The payroll to slaveowners shows that the government did not own slaves, but that it did hire them from their masters. Slave carpenters Ben, Daniel, and Peter were noted as owned by James Hoban.

The payroll to slaveowners shows that the government did not own slaves, but that it did hire them from their masters. Slave carpenters Ben, Daniel, and Peter were noted as owned by James Hoban. (National Archives and Records Administration)

In addition to constructing the buildings, slaves also worked the quarries where the stones for the government buildings came from. Ironically, the Statue of Freedom that sits atop the Capitol dome was made with the help of Philip Reid, a man enslaved by sculptor Thomas Crawford, who was commissioned to build the statue. According to the Architect of the Capitol, Reid was paid $1.25 a day by the federal government for his contributions.

“There is no telling how many stories that have been lost because, as a country, we didn’t value these stories,” historian and reporter Jesse J. Holland tells Smithsonian.com. “We’re always learning more about the presidents as we go forward and we’ll also learn more about the people who cooked their meals and dressed them.”

 

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2016 in Black History

 

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A Little Blues From the Heyday

Just for the fun of it, some old time Blues…

 
 

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