First Lady Michelle Obama gave an absolutely incredible speech on Monday during the first night of the Democratic National Convention. She energized the crowd with her heartfelt words. It was such a fabulous speech that you would think no one could find anything wrong with it. It focused on building a better future for our children. What’s the problem?
Well, if you thought the best in people, you’d be wrong. (And presumably, you’ve been living under a rock for the past eight years.) Right-wingers can always find something to whine about when it comes to the Obamas.
In her speech, the First Lady briefly pointed out that the White House was built by slaves.
I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves,” she said. “And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn. And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States. So, don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country isn’t great, that somehow we need to make it great again, because this right now is the greatest country on Earth.
Predictably, conservatives lost their sh*t.
Why did I think #MichelleObama would go through her speech without mentioning slaves……
— TinaD (@trumpkin007) July 26, 2016
— Joe DiBella (@josephmdibella) July 26, 2016
The last tweet there declared that there is “no such proof” that the White House was built by slaves. Well, Mr. DiBella, (who happens to be a small-time Republican politician), you need to do just a little more research because the proof you seek certainly does exist.
According to Politifact, the First Lady’s claim that slaves built the White House is true. In fact, the White House Historical Association has an entire web page devoted just to the question “Did slaves build the White House?” That page reads in part:
Construction on the president’s house began in 1792 in Washington, D.C., a new capital situated in a sparsely settled region far from a major population center. The decision to place the capital on land ceded by two slave states — Virginia and Maryland — ultimately influenced the acquisition of laborers to construct its public buildings.
The D.C. commissioners, charged by Congress with building the new city under the direction of the president, initially planned to import workers from Europe to meet their labor needs. However, response to recruitment was dismal and soon they turned to African American(s) — enslaved and free — to provide the bulk of labor that built the White House, the United States Capitol, and other early government buildings.
Collen Williamson, a stonemason “trained enslaved people on the spot at the government’s quarry at Aquia, Va.,” the group wrote. “Enslaved people quarried and cut the rough stone that was later dressed and laid by Scottish masons to erect the walls of the president’s house. The slaves joined a workforce that included local white laborers and artisans from Maryland and Virginia, as well as immigrants from Ireland, Scotland, and other European nations.”
Payroll records from the National Archives and Records Administration/White House Historical Association show that the government may not have owned the slaves, but they certainly used them for labor. Three carpenters who were slaves that worked on the White House — Ben, Daniel, and Peter — were listed as being owned by James Hoban.
Jesse J. Holland, who authored The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House, also discussed the role of slaves in the building of the White House in his book.
With the invention of steam shovels still several years away, these slaves dug for the clay on site with hand shovels, working day and night to get the raw material to the skilled brick makers and at the same time, opening up ground on the site for the space that would become the White House’s foundation and cellar.
Holland added that the names of those slaves and any information on where they came from was lost long ago. Holland insists that Mrs. Obama’s statement is true: Slaves most certainly did build the White House.
Sorry conservatives, but once again all your public outrage has proven is that you really need to spend some more time studying the history of this country. It might do you a whole lot of good.
Featured image via Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images