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Nolan King
Nolan King


When construction of the U.S. Capitol Building began in 1793, Washington, D.C., was little more than a rural landscape with dirt roads and few accommodations beyond a small number of boarding houses. Skilled labor was hard to find or attract to the fledgling city. Enslaved laborers, who were rented from their owners, were involved in almost every stage of construction. The federal government relied heavily on enslaved labor to ensure the new capital city would be ready to receive Congress when it moved to Washington from Philadelphia in 1800.


To commemorate the role that slave labor played in the construction of the Capitol Building, House Concurrent Resolution 135 was passed by Congress directing the Architect of the Capitol to design, procure and install a slave labor marker in a prominent location in Emancipation Hall. The design and location incorporated the recommendations developed by the Congressional Slave Labor Task Force Working Group.

Although the entire contribution of enslaved African Americans in the construction of the Capitol Building cannot be determined due the scarcity of documentation, there is enough information to know that the role they played had a significant impact on the project.

The site of the new capital city was located in an area that had few carpenters, bricklayers, stone cutters and other tradesmen necessary to construct such a project. Engineers and architects were brought in from other areas, but the majority of the work fell upon the laborers in the area, who were comprised mostly of African American slaves. These slaves, as well as other the laborers, quarried the stone used for the floors, walls and columns of the Capitol, sawed both wood and stone, and became skilled in brick making and laying. Carpentry was also one of the more significant contributions slaves made to the construction of the Capitol as they framed the roof and installed its shingle covering.

One of the most significant contributions by an African American slave was made by Philip Reid, who deciphered the puzzle of how to separate the five-piece plaster model of the Statue of Freedom. Today, he and countless others are recognized for the role they played in building this monumental and historic symbol of democracy.

"North American Slave Narratives" collects books and articles that document the individual and collective story of Black people struggling for freedom and human rights in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries. This collection includes all the existing autobiographical narratives of self-emancipated and formerly enslaved people published as broadsides, pamphlets, or books in English up to 1920. Also included are many of the biographies of self-emancipated and formerly enslaved people and some significant fictionalized first-person accounts of enslavement published in English before 1920.

Of all the bills that made up the Compromise of 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act was the most controversial. It required citizens to assist in the recovery of fugitive slaves, and it denied a fugitive's right to a jury trial.

The petitions in the case state that Pembrook, who was 42 or 43 years old, had been enslaved for more than 18 years to Jacob H. Grove. Pembrook is described this way: "about five feet and six or seven inches in height, dark in colour, has bad teeth, and that one at least of his front teeth is gone."

This story is particularly interesting in the way Stephen Pembrook later regained his freedom. His brother's church, through the donations of parishioners, purchased him for $1,000 and brought him back to New York. His sons, unfortunately, remained in slavery.

Select documents from these files have been digitized and can be found in the National Archives Catalog. The documents include affidavits, petitions, powers of attorney, case file covers, depositions, and certifications of the receipt of fugitive slaves.

Carver was born a slave on a small farm near Diamond Grove, Missouri, in 1865, "near the end of the war." Moses and Susan Carver, his owners, reputedly opposed slavery. However, they needed labor to work their lands and acquired slaves, including Mary, George's mother.

At Anti-Slavery International, we define modern slavery as when an individual is exploited by others, for personal or commercial gain. Whether tricked, coerced, or forced, they lose their freedom. This includes but is not limited to human trafficking, forced labour and debt bondage.

Modern slavery is all around us, often hidden in plain sight. People can become enslaved making our clothes, serving our food, picking our crops, working in factories, or working in houses as cooks, cleaners or nannies. Victims of modern slavery might face violence or threats, be forced into inescapable debt, or have their passport taken away and face being threatened with deportation.

Colonial slavery shaped modern Britain and we all still live with itslegacies. The slave-owners were one very important means by which thefruits of slavery were transmitted to metropolitan Britain. We believethat research and analysis of this group are key to understanding theextent and the limits of slavery's role in shaping British history andleaving lasting legacies that reach into the present. We are now movingin the direction of more focused research on the lives of enslavedpeople in the Caribbean. This is a natural development from our work onslave-owners and estates and an exciting demonstration of our commitmentto the study of the multiple legacies of slavery in the British imperialworld. With growth comes necessary change. One we are most pleased tomake is to our name, which we changed in May 2021 to the Centre forthe Study of the Legacies of British Slavery. We also have a newlogo. This name change incorporates the work we have done and chartsa way forward for our new phase of research and activities on slaveryand its legacies in Britain and the Caribbean.

The Western Australian Legacies of British Slavery project, working in collaboration with LBS, is examining the importance of the legacy of British slavery for the colonisation of Western Australia. The research into Western Australian colonists and their networks aims to trace the movement of people, goods, capital, and practices from the Caribbean to the newly-established colony of Western Australia. See also the related blog on James Stirling (1791-1865), enslavement and Western Australia by Georgina Arnott, a member of the Western Australia project team.

Slavery and Resistance in Jamaican History.On Saturday 4th December (11.00-18.00) at the British Library there was a day of practical talks and workshops from leading historians of 18th-century Jamaica. 18th-century Jamaica has been the subject of intense historical interest in recent years, as important or overlooked documents have been rediscovered, and new ways of approaching histories of slavery, resistance and freedom have been developed. This day of talks and workshops from leading writers on the period will offer practical insights on how to get started in early modern Jamaican history, and how to get the most out of the British Library's collection: links to digital resources are included on this page.

LBS - past & present: here we have a statement, 12 June 2020, on doing reparative history and you can read an associated statement from the new Director of the Centre, Matthew Smith, on the challenges and prospects for our work. And for an interview with Matthew Smith see also The Guardian, 22 September 2020.There is also a link to a recent statement by many leading British historians calling for a review of the Home Office Citizenship and Settlement Test and its misrepresentation of slavery and Empire.

In Legacies of British Slave-ownership. Colonial Slavery and the Formation of Victorian Britain, published by Cambridge University Press, we re-examine the relationship between Britain and colonial slavery in a crucial period in the birth of modern Britain.

"Insurance policies from the slavery era have been discovered in the archives of several insurance companies, documenting insurance coverage for slaveholders for damage to or death of their slaves, issued by a predecessor insurance firm. These documents provide the first evidence of ill-gotten profits from slavery, which profits in part capitalized insurers whose successors remain in existence today." SB2199 Sec. 1(a).

Below are links to the Department's report to the California Legislature describing the information received from insurers in response to this statute, including the database of slave and slaveholder names and identifying information.

All reports submitted in response to this statute, together with all documents attached thereto, such as copies of policies, ledgers and documents that discuss slave insurance, can be examined at the Department of Insurance public viewing rooms in Los Angeles and Oakland. Please note that as of 3/2020 the Public Viewing Rooms are temporarily closed, due to safety and security concerns. Most of what is in the Public Viewing Rooms are also available via the web links above.

In addition to the report and documents made available at the Department, after consultation with the California State Librarian, the Department has sent copies of the slavery era insurance documents we received from the insurers to libraries at the:

Exhibit Sections: Slavery Free Blacks Abolition Civil War Reconstruction Booker T. Washington Era WWI-Post War The Depression-WWII Civil Rights Era Abolition, Anti-Slavery Movements, and the Rise of the Sectional ControversyPart 1Part 2:Fugitive Slave Law Growing Sectionalism Militant Abolition "The Book That Made This GreatWar" Fugitive Slave LawNorth to CanadaMission to Fugitive Slaves in Canada: Being a Branch of the Operations of the Colonial Church and School Society . . . 1858-9.[London]: Society's Offices, 1859.Pamphlet.Rare Book and Special Collections Division. (3-4a)Mission to Fugitive Slaves in Canada: Being a Branch of the Operations of the Colonial Church and School Society . . . 1858-9.[London]: Society's Offices, 1859.Copyprint.Rare Book and Special Collections Division. (3-4b)In the wake of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, which forced Northernlaw enforcement officers to aid in the recapture of runaways, more thanten thousand fugitive slaves swelled the flood of those fleeing to Canada.The Colonial Church and School Society established mission schools inwestern Canada, particularly for children of fugitive slaves but open toall. The school's Mistress Williams notes that their success proves the"feasibility of educating together white and colored children." Whileprimarily focusing on spiritual and secular educational operations, thereport reproduces letters of thanks for food, clothing, shoes, and bookssent from England. This early photograph accompanied one such letter tothe children of St. Matthew's School, Bristol. 041b061a72


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