“Imagine working in the dead of summer, hardly any food, any water; constructing a building by hand; laying brick by brick. Imagine working through the chilling winter; shivering to the bone.”
These compelling words by Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) tried to convey the grave conditions that slaves underwent to build the US Capitol. This week, those slaves got the recognition they so rightly deserved.
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At a ceremony fittingly held at the Capitol; House and Senate Leadership, and a host of other members unveiled plaques that will sit in the Capitol for all to see.
Lawmakers like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said the memorials will ensure that the contributions of slaves in constructing one of the world's most recognizable buildings are never again forgotten. “Today we honor men and women who laid the very fabric upon which this building stands, and from this day on no everyone will see that they are in the thread of our country’s heritage.”
Other notables in the crowd were RNC Chairman Michael Steele, Director of the NAACP DC Chapter Hilary Shelton, and various members of the Congressional Black Caucus including the Chair Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA).
Research has shown that slaves worked 12 hours a day, six days a week in building the Capitol, and were rented from slave owners at $5 per person per month.
They worked as masons, painters, roofers, and carpenters.