Slaves Who Built the White House Could Finally Be Recognized

| On 15, Feb 2012

Are the black slaves that built the White House ever going to get their just due? (Photo by RLRouse.com)

This is one of those stories I didn’t think we would still be discussing in 2012.

It seems, however, that Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) has taken the initiative to remind the White House that it needs to pay respect to those who built the structure. It’s well-known in some circles of history that black slaves played a significant role in construction of the building where President Obama rests his head at night.

Ackerman wrote a letter to the White House asking them to offer public acknowledgements on the property showing the contributions of slaves to the facility. He offered the advice after consulting with a New York activist, Mandingo Tshaka.

“[T]he American way has always been to acknowledge our wrongs and constantly strive for better. It is wrong not to acknowledge wrongs,” Ackerman said in his letter to President Obama.

For some reason, though, slaves are not officially commended for the years of FREE labor they provided to one of the most recognizable buildings in the U.S. The contributions slaves made to the U.S. Capitol were recognized just two years ago.

This is pretty sad, if you ask me.

The White House opened in 1800. Slaves worked in the building until the mid-1860’s when slavery was officially abolished by President Abraham Lincoln.

In fact, the federal government rented slaves from local landowners for $5.00/person every month to help during the building’s construction phase. In today’s dollars that would be a little more than $63/person every month, which shows just how disposable (and cheap) slaveholders thought of their “cargo.”

I’m sorry, but 212 years is a mighty long time to go without thanking a group of people for their building contributions. Talk about procrastination!! Damn…

The lack of acknowledgement so far from federal officials does not surprise me. The U.S. has always had a hard time admitting the economic, social, and physical benefits that slaves offered to the nation. Hopefully, President Obama will step up to the plate and finally correct this.

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