Was the White House built by slaves?

In Michelle Obama’s Democratic Convention speech, she spoke on what it was like to live in a home built by slaves and to reflect on how far black Americans have come.

“That is the story of this country, the story that has brought me to this stage tonight, the story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today 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,” she said. Read the full transcript here.

Critics immediate took to social media to lash out at Obama, saying the White House was not built by slaves.

According to the White House Historical Association, which is a private group, it was indeed built by slaves.

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—enslaved and free—to provide the bulk of labor that built the White House, the United States Capitol, and other early government buildings.

Slaves worked with local white laborers and artisans from Maryland and Virginia, as well as immigrants from Ireland, Scotland, and other European nations, the records show.

To see historical documents, visit White House Historical Association’s website.

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