- Mystery sign poster hits Washington state town: ‘It’s OK to say Merry Christmas’
- Pope Francis forms commission to advise on sex abuse
- Anthony Weiner on radio? Cumulus says, ‘Never, ever’
- Executive order: Obama ups green-energy mandate on feds to 20 percent
- GOP launches candidate training: How to talk to women
- N.Y.’s Rockefeller Center lights up, as Bloomberg flicks on 76-foot Christmas tree
- Northern Ireland turns to ‘Game of Thrones’ to draw in tourists
- Washington woman live-tweets husband’s horrific car death
- China City of America mulled for New York — with $65M tax dollars
- Yemen defense ministry rocked by suicide bomber, gunfire
Capitol slave labor studied
The U.S. Capitol was built with the labor of slaves who cut the logs, laid the stones and baked the bricks. Two centuries later, Congress has decided the world should know about this.
Congressional leaders yesterday announced the creation of a task force to study the history of slave labor in the construction of the Capitol and suggest how it can best be commemorated.
“It is our hope that the work of the task force will shed light on this part of our history, the building of our nation’s greatest symbol of democracy,” said House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican; Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican; and Democratic leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California and Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada.
Historians say slaves were the largest labor pool when Congress in 1790 decided to create a new national capital along the Potomac surrounded by the two slave-owning states of Maryland and Virginia.
Over the next decade, local farmers rented out their slaves for an average of $55 a year to help build the Capitol, the White House, the Treasury Department and the streets laid out by city planner Pierre L’Enfant.
Slaves cut trees on the hill where the Capitol would stand, cleared stumps from the new streets, worked in the stone quarries where sandstone was cut and assisted the masons laying stone for the walls of the new homes of Congress and the president.
They also were involved in the expansion of the Capitol in the late 1850s.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Arkansas Democrat and a task force member, said lawmakers became aware of the use of slaves after researchers in the late 1990s found documents of Treasury Department payments to slave owners. She said more than 400 slaves apparently were hired out.
In 2000, Mrs. Lincoln and Sen. Spencer Abraham, Michigan Republican, Rep. John Lewis, Georgia Democrat, and Rep. J.C. Watts Jr., Oklahoma Republican, pushed through legislation approving the formation of a task force.
But Mrs. Lincoln said that because of changes in control of the Senate, it has taken until now to implement that legislation. “It’s certainly long overdue,” she said. “The task force will have a great opportunity to bring forward basically a history lesson as well as an appropriate memorial.”
Mr. Lewis, a veteran of the civil rights movement, said the opening of a Capitol visitors’ center next year might provide a venue for recognizing the slaves. “We need to find someplace not only to place a statue or appropriate symbol, we also need to find a way to tell their story,” he said.
- CURL: 'Mission Accomplished' for Obamacare
- American teacher shot and killed at Benghazi international school
- 'Hunger Games' delivers Obama's message on income inequality
- NAPOLITANO: Liberty, the wellspring of capitalism and charity
- Pentagon may give recruits 'a shot to start over' after shameful social media posts
- Democratic infighting erupts over 'we can have it all' fantasy on entitlements
- Obama returns to class warfare as poll numbers plunge
- Young millennials shun Obamacare, creating risky imbalance
- Hack attack: 2 million Facebook, Twitter passwords stolen
- HARPER: 'Knockout game' not a myth to liberal Sharpton
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Television commentary, reviews, news and nonstop DVR catch-up by Lisa King Dolloff and friends.
The Constitution: Every issue, every time. No exceptions, no excuses. And how to get from here to there.
A libertarian look at breaking news and political trends by author Tom Mullen.
A stat-head’s outlook, direct from his worn in couch cushion.