WASHINGTON – A U.S. congressman is urging President Obama to recognize the work of enslaved African-Americans who helped build the White House.
Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) has written a letter to the president asking for the role of slave labor to be recognized by displaying an appropriate acknowledgement in a public area of the White House.
“Slaves helped dig the foundation for the White House,” Ackerman wrote in correspondence to the White House Thursday. “They quarried stone that would be used for the walls, dug up clay for thousands of bricks, cut timber, sawed lumber, and performed carpentry inside the White House.
“Even after White House construction was completed, slaves continued to support White House operations. Slaves served in White House domestic staff from 1800 through the Civil War.”
It was just two years ago that slaves who helped build the U.S. Capitol were honored with commemorative plaques inside the Capitol, following a study by a congressional task force led by civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)
“It was a shameful omission that visitors to the Capitol could tour the building to learn its history but not learn that slave labor was used in its construction,” argued Ackerman in a statement released Thursday. “I’m proud Congress took action to correct this failure and I now urge the White House follow suit.”