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The first person of African descent to enter the White House was most likely a slave. Last week, President Obama mentioned the role of slaves in building one specific landmark: This is what Obama had to say about Monticello. This house also represents a complicated history of the United States. We just visited downstairs, where we know that slaves helped to build this magnificent structure, and the complex relations that Jefferson, the drafter of the Declaration of Independence, had to slavery.
These presidents bought, sold, and bred enslaved people for profit. Professor Lusane, welcome to Democracy Now! So, talk about this history of slavery and U. Not only that, it was built by slaves.
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And none of that has been publicly acknowledged. There is over a million people who visit the White House every year, who go on tours, who come for meetings, and you can go through that building and never have a sense of that important history. And part of that history, part of what I think resonates even to this day, is that, significantly, before the Civil War, nearly every U.
So, give us a black history of U. And that was critical because when you think about George Washington, Madison, Monroe, all of the early presidents, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, they wrote the Constitution, they wrote the Articles of Confederation, all of these documents, these founding documents that extol the principles of democracy, liberty, equality, they were living a contradiction.
And that contradiction is that every single day of their life, every moment in their life, they were surrounded by people who were enslaved.
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Now, fortunately, because of some of the historic records that have been kept, we now know who some of those people were.
George Washington, for example, when he was president and his presidency was in Philadelphia, had at least nine individuals with him who were enslaved—Oney Maria Judge, for example, who was a young woman of about 22 who escaped from George Washington. She escaped—this was inwhen she found out that Martha Washington was planning to give her away as a wedding gift.
And she made contact with the free black population in Philadelphia, was able to escape. Her story is important because she lived—she outlived Washington.PROJECT ZORGO DOOMSDAY DATE CLUES (Solving Escape Room 24 Hours Overnight Challenge at 3am Riddles)
She lived to be, I believe, in her eighties and lived a life where she learned to read, became active in her community. So there are people who we were in and around the White House who had stories to tell that are part of that history that we literally were never taught about for all of the years that, you know, we took schooling and we took classes in history.
And so, I thought it was important, and there are others who have written to re-enter into the historic narrative the stories of these individuals, because they really are critical if you really want to understand the politics of George Washington or the politics of Thomas Jefferson or any of the other presidents who held slaves. Tell us about Paul Jennings. Paul Jennings, again, is another fascinating character.
He was enslaved to the Madisons, to James and Dolly Madison. He was, in fact, the first individual to actually write about working in the White House. He published a memoir—this was in the late s—that talked about the time when he was in the White House.
And he was there in He was there when the British literally were burning down the city, and was part of the contingent of folks who were attempting to get materials out of the White House and preserve them before the British came. So he really had a fascinating history.
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He was supposed to be free when James Madison died, but Dolly Madison basically reneged on the deal. So he—it took him a few years to buy his freedom, which he eventually did. And then he actually came to help Dolly Madison. She fell on hard times. And so, when she fell on hard times and her family and friends abandoned her, Jennings would often bring her food and bring her money and basically would look after her. This happened in For a number of reasons, the escape attempt failed, but Jennings was never brought in.
He was never seen as being part of it. And it was only literally after his death that it was revealed that he had played a very critical role in that. So, my point is that you had these individuals who were enslaved to presidents, who really had fascinating kinds of stories and fascinating kinds of lives that we should know about, because they really are also a part of the history of the White House and the history of the presidency. I want to play a clip from the trailer of the film Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg, released last year, about President Abraham Lincoln and the fight to end slavery in the United States.
The Confederate War Department mobilized an irregular force of soldiers, government workers and volunteers to resist the invaders. Library of Congress On Feb. He rode hard with the main body of about 3, men south to Richmond, while a second, smaller column of men headed to Goochland, northwest of the capital. Kingston and the rest of the Second were part of the smaller column. It was under the command of Ulric Dahlgren, a year-old colonel and son of a career Navy officer, John Dahlgren.
He had led a successful reconnaissance raid into Confederate-held Fredericksburg on Nov. Still, he soldiered on. Casualties mounted, and Kingston went to work to save as many men as he could.
Dahlgren pressed to within two-and-a-half miles of the heart of the capital when the defenders finally broke their momentum. Dahlgren acted to save his command. Kingston, who was uninjured, remained with the wounded as Dahlgren and the survivors fled.
By now night had fallen, and in the confusion caused by the darkness and enemy activity the column became separated. One section eventually made its way back to Kilpatrick. The other section, under the command of Dahlgren, rode into an ambush arranged by about Confederate cavalrymen and other local volunteers.
They descended on the Yankee raiders. Dahlgren was struck and killed by four bullets, and the rest of his troopers were dispersed or captured. Another, year-old William Littlepage, came away with a cigar case, a memorandum book and a few papers. Littlepage and his comrades read one of the papers with fascination. One statement stood out among the rest: Publication of the contents days after they were discovered rocked Richmond.
Calls for retribution and retaliation rippled across the South. The North promptly denied any assassination plans and declared the documents to be forgeries. While this circus played out on the streets of the capital, Kingston and his white cellmates were informed that they had been condemned to death as felons for their role in the alleged assassination attempt.
On March 21, as he lay near death, the Confederates removed him from his cell and sent him North.
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He survived the trip home, and with good food and care came back to life. He eventually returned to the regiment, was promoted to full surgeon, and served in this capacity until the end of the war. The Confederates never followed through on their promise to execute the prisoners, which was most likely an idle threat by overzealous guards. But their ill treatment exacted a grim toll.
According to Bartley, of the six officers imprisoned in the dungeon at Libby Prison, only three survived.