Gary Ackerman Calls On Obama To Honor Slaves Who Built White House

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."

Ackerman said he was inspired to investigate the role of slave labor at the White House by one of his constituents, Mandingo Tshaka, an activist from Queens, N.Y., whom Ackerman credited with enlightening people about slaves' experiences on Capitol Hill.

"From the U.S. Capitol Building to the White House, our national symbols that represent freedom to so many of us, were built by people who were anything but free," Ackerman wrote.

"While the larger injustice of slavery can never be adequately corrected, the continuing failure of properly informing visitors to Washington of the history of slaves building our national structures -- including the White House -- should be remedied."

Ackerman''s push for the White House to recognize the vital role of slaves, comes as the country celebrates African-American contributions and heroes during Black History Month.

Historians have discovered that slaves worked round the clock, six days a week, on the construction of the Capitol. The federal government rented the slaves from local slave owners at a rate of $5 per person per month. The slaves were not paid.

You must be logged in to post comments.

Password (case sensitive):
Remember Me:

Read Comments

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by nightrain on Feb 13, 2012 at 10:02 AM
    While were at it, maybe we should require every box of lasagna or spaghetti have a note on it thanking the Italians. Better yet, maybe every black person who can trace their ancestors back to slavery should have a plaque in their house thanking slave owners for buying their ancestors. As someone else already commented, every other race has moved on.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 12, 2012 at 02:43 PM
    I wonder how many slaves/illegal immigrants designed and built the bunkers underneath it.
  • by Gettingalong Location: NC on Feb 12, 2012 at 01:08 PM
    This black and white thing has nothing to do with the past but rather what is being taught in the present. When will people learn to live together as humans and prosper and move on. White , black who gives a dang treat me as human and I will do the same.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Feb 12, 2012 at 02:44 PM in reply to Gettingalong
      Go to the prison systems and talk like that.
  • by Kimo Location: Belhaven on Feb 12, 2012 at 06:27 AM
    What we should do is tear down both the White House and Capitol and rebuild them with Union labor. The new residence should not be called the "white" house. That certainly implies a bias...
  • by Meat Farmer on Feb 12, 2012 at 05:37 AM
    When are people going to acknowledge that the slaves got it a whole lot better when they got to America. When they were cought in Africa they were chained in long lines around the neck and forced to walk across the desert to the coast. When one died,his head was cut off and the body just left there. It is estimated the number who died is in the millions. Once they were loaded on the ships it didn't get any better as they were chained in cargo holds and very overcrowded and forced to live among the dead for months. When they did arrive in America and were purchased they were sent to live in housing,fed and clothed,recieved medical care,and started families. Also don't forget that many freed slaves fought in the Confederate Army. There were also many slaves who earned their freedom and were granted land by the slave owners to start their own life. While I agree it wasn't always great and a black eye for America,it was in fact a worldwide practice of the time and was abolished over a hundred years ago. Move on.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 12, 2012 at 03:26 AM
    it was the black man that sold the black man to slave ships so don't just come down on whites ,the african blacks were in it to ,brother sold brother,,fact
  • by Black History Year on Feb 12, 2012 at 03:19 AM
    Lets just have a black history year! More welfare, more affirmative action, and no taxes. Then maybe we can right the past!
    • reply
      by We have... on Feb 12, 2012 at 07:27 AM in reply to Black History Year
      bitter white man syndrome ever day of the year. Don't blame your lack of success on others. It's poor form....
  • by Norma Location: NC on Feb 11, 2012 at 10:08 PM
    People must remember over 300,000 White Union Army Americans died to give the Black Slaves freedom from 1860 - 1865. From the South Slave owners. Now the Democrats want to keep them on welfare to get their vote! How times have not changed
    • reply
      by Some things never change on Feb 12, 2012 at 07:26 AM in reply to Norma
      Like racist... You sound like one and would fit in perfectly circa 1860....
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Feb 12, 2012 at 11:09 AM in reply to Norma
      from the "southern slave owners" ?? Did you take history in school ?? Many, many northerners owned slaves also. Even Lincoln owned slaves. Get your biased facts straight dear.
  • by Earl Location: Chocowinity on Feb 11, 2012 at 09:46 PM
    What would America be like today in 2012 if the South won the Civil War in 1865? Think about it. Their would be no Obama as President thats for sure!
    • reply
      by Wow on Feb 12, 2012 at 07:24 AM in reply to Earl
      Now I know where are the uneducated people live. I hope you did not have children. Best to you.....
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Feb 12, 2012 at 11:12 AM in reply to Earl
      Earl, I'm a southern white guy and I have no problem with a black man being president.... a black man such as Herman Cain, Walter Williams, Allen West, ect. Freedom loving, small government conservative black men. I got their back anyday ! Now obama... yeah, he's been an absolute FAILURE !
  • by history lesson Location: wash nc on Feb 11, 2012 at 08:25 PM
    Burning of Washington From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia The Burning of Washington in 1814 was an armed conflict during the War of 1812 between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the United States of America. On August 24, 1814, led by General Robert Ross, a British force occupied Washington, D.C. and set fire to many public buildings following the American defeat at the Battle of Bladensburg. The facilities of the U.S. government, including the White House and U.S. Capitol, were largely destroyed.[3] The British commander's orders to burn only public buildings and strict British discipline among its troops are credited with preserving the city's private buildings.
    • reply
      by Good for you on Feb 12, 2012 at 07:23 AM in reply to history lesson
      you learned how to cut and paste.. Now go away and let the adults talk...

275 E. Arlington Blvd. Greenville, NC 27858 252-439-7777
Copyright © 2002-2016 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 139144504 -
Gray Television, Inc.