Black Men Built the Capitol

U.S. Capitol being built by Black men

It was the mid-1850s and the U.S. capitol was under construction, with plans for a new dome and a statue to sit on top of it. At first, the sculptor of this statue wanted to create the likeness of a freed slave. The statue would be simply titled, “Freedom.”

Further on the subject of this statue, a short excerpt of the book Black Men Built the Capitol by Jesse Holland states: ‘Philip Reed…a 39-year old mulatto slave from Charleston, S.C…was a "highly-esteemed" workman who was "smart in mind" and "a good workman in a foundry."’ The book goes on to share that Reed later became instrumental in the construction and building of the country’s capitol.

It wasn’t until much later in an 1863 edition of the New York Tribune when the story was described in detail. However, according to the book’s excerpt, ‘The African American slave is never named in the New York Tribune story but it is likely given the description of the slave's skill and intelligence that it was Reed.’

This is only one example of thousands of times when black workers and slaves were the backbone and masterminds behind the building of today’s American nation.