Congress continued its efforts to recognize the government’s role in African-American slavery as the House of Representatives passed a resolution Tuesday that acknowledges the use of slave labor in the construction of the U.S. Capitol.
The concurrent resolution sponsored by Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., passed on a 399 to 1 vote. Rep. Steve King, a Republican from Iowa, cast the lone no vote. The marker’s fate now rests with the Senate, where lawmakers will consider a similar measure to Lewis’ that’s sponsored by Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark.
Lewis, a civil rights icon, said the time for honoring those who involuntarily toiled in building the Capitol building and the White House was long overdue.
“Mr. Speaker, for too long the (story of the) use of slave labor in the construction of the United States Capitol has gone untold,” Lewis said on the House floor prior to the vote. “We look back today, not to open old wounds, but to ensure that we tell the story of those slaves, so their toils are never forgotten. Slavery is part of our nation’s history of which we are not proud. However, we should not run or hide from it.”
Lewis’ resolution directs the Architect of the Capitol to place a marker, made from original sandstone quarried by the slaves for the Capitol’s construction, in a highly visible place in the $621 Million Capitol Visitor’s Center’s Emancipation Hall. The stones were removed from the building during renovation and have been kept in storage.