It’s the 150th anniversary of the completion of the U.S. Capitol building dome, but what is hardly talked about is the fact that slaves helped build it. Jesse J. Holland, author of “Black Men Built the Capitol,” gave insight into how the seat of our government came to be a product of slave labor.
“The entire time the United States government is being created, through the streets of D.C. you had African Americans slaves being held in bondage,” said Holland on NewsOne Now with Roland Martin. “So when it came time to actually build the buildings for the United States government, they turned to free labor. Then they paid white masters to use the labor of their black slaves on a lot of the important buildings here in Washington, including and especially the Capitol.”
He also shared a story of Philip Reid, an enslaved worker who helped at a critical juncture in the casting of the bronze Statue of Freedom atop the dome. “If an African American slave hadn’t had the brains to disassemble this plaster model [of the statue],” he continued,”and take it out to Bladensburg, Maryland so it could be bronzed, it probably would still be sitting on the Capitol grounds today.”