Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Too Little, Too Late

Yesterday, Congress acknowledged the role of enslaved Africans in the building of the Nation's Capitol. As stated in the Washington Post:

African-American slaves sweated in the summer heat and shivered in the winter's cold while helping to build the U.S. Capitol.

Congress took note of their service and sacrifice Wednesday by erecting commemorative plaques inside the Capitol in their honor. Lawmakers said the memorials will ensure that the contributions of slaves in building one of the world's most recognizable buildings are never again forgotten.

"In remembering the slaves who labored here, we give them in death some measure of the dignity they were so cruelly denied in life," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said at the plaques' unveiling.

The plaques read: "This original exterior wall was constructed between 1793 and 1800 of sandstone quarried by laborers, including enslaved African Americans who were an important part of the workforce that built the United States Capitol."

Historians have discovered that slaves worked 12-hour days, six days a week on the construction of the Capitol. The federal government rented the slaves from local slave owners at a rate of $5 per person per month.

When I first read about this on Facebook, I was outraged. It is a damn shame that it took the federal government so long to honor the enslaved Africans who built the Capitol. Although plaques and apologies are an important step to help heal this country, such gestures alone are woefully inadequate. Instead of simply issuing more plaques and apologies, this government must atone for the sin of slavery by paying reparations!