In response to Michelle Obama’s speech on the opening night of the Democratic National Convention, former history teacher Bill O’Reilly told his viewers that the slaves who built the White House were well-fed and had decent lodgings. He didn’t mention the other not-so-great parts about being a slave, which include being the property of another person.
Slaves that worked there were well-fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government, which stopped hiring slave labor in 1802. However, the feds did not forbid subcontractors from using slave labor. So, Michelle Obama is essentially correct in citing slaves as builders of the White House, but there were others working as well. Got it all? There will be a quiz.
From Think Progress:
Liam Hogan, a historian whose work focuses on slavery, noted on Twitter that O’Reilly’s comments are reminiscent of “how chattel slavery was defended by slave owners and pro-slavery interests.” To cite just one example, a U.S. history primer put together by the Independence Hall Association notes that “defenders of slavery argued that by comparison with the poor of Europe and the workers in the Northern states, that slaves were better cared for. They said that their owners would protect and assist them when they were sick and aged, unlike those who, once fired from their work, were left to fend helplessly for themselves.”
The reality, Hogan added, is that slavery were “treated like livestock.”