Just one question for the nation’s history teachers: What exactly are you teaching as history these days?
The question comes up because when Michele Obama uttered this paragraph last night….
“I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. 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.”
… it sent people scurrying to find out if it’s true that the White House was built by slaves.
PolitiFact went to the White House Historical Association — before that website crashed — and confirmed — again — that though it was not exclusively built by slaves, slaves helped build it.
It 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.”
A stonemason, Collen Williamson, “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.”
You’d think that would have come up sometime in history class.