Throughout my visit to Washington, D.C., with Hilltop on the Hill, a group of CCPA and journalism students, many allusions were made regarding the construction of monuments and federal buildings built by slaves. At the inception of the United States, the surrounding area that now encompasses the District of Columbia was slave territory. It was not until 86 years later that slavery was abolished and the District of Columbia was named a free land.
Atop the Capitol building stands a gleaming beacon for prosperity, a statue named “Freedom.” Ironically, this figure symbolizing the opportunities and accomplishments of a nation founded on freedom for all was poured by slaves who were treated as second-class citizens. In addition, slaves also contributed to the construction of the White House. Many presidents who agreed with the institution of slavery lived in the White House while not acknowledging how the building came about.
However, in recent years legislation has been passed commemorating the role that slaves played in constructing the wealth of the U.S. Capitol. A ceremony was held, and Congress dedicated plaques this past August to officially recognize a major contribution that was overlooked by many.
Thankfully, the existence of “Freedom” erected upon the building that represents the people not only represents the existence of slavery, but also the triumph over and lessons of slavery in the United States.