Slavery Comes Full Circle

| Wed Dec. 3, 2008 12:49 PM EST

CNN reminds us, as the Obamas head for DC, of the slaves who helped build the White House (as well as many other federal buildings) and of the many presidents tended to there by slaves. George Washington started the trend:

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Twelve American presidents owned slaves and eight of them, starting with Washington, owned slaves while they lived in the White House. Almost from the very start, slaves were a common sight in the executive mansion. A list of construction workers building the White House in 1795 includes five slaves—named Tom, Peter, Ben, Harry, and Daniel—all put to work as carpenters. Other slaves worked as masons in the government quarries, cutting the stone for early government buildings, including the White House and US Capitol. According to records kept by the White House Historical Association, slaves often worked seven days a week—even in the hot and humid Washington summers.

So, now we've come full circle. Obama's mama's family owned slaves, and Mrs. Obama's ancestors were slaves. During the run, Michelle "learned this year that one of her great-great grandfathers was a slave who worked on a rice plantation in South Carolina. She says finding that part of her past uncovered both shame and pride and what she calls the tangled history of this country."

Tangled indeed, but finally heading north.