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The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is on its way! I was just talking about this museum in a Voice of America interview early this A.M.!

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¶ Smithsonian announces winning design team to create black history museum on National Mall
¶ Associated Press Writer
¶ WASHINGTON (AP) _ A glowing bronze crown meant to evoke historical imagery of African-Americans emerged Tuesday as the winning architectural concept for a new black history museum on the National Mall.
¶ A Smithsonian Institution jury selected the team Freelon Adjaye Bond, in association with SmithGroup, from six finalists in a design competition to build the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
¶ Members of the group previously designed San Francisco's Museum of the African Diaspora and the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo, Norway.
¶ The bronze, layered corona atop a stone base would be the defining element of the structure, which could be the last major building added to the expanse between the U.S. Capitol and Washington Monument.
¶ "I think it definitely gave us a very clear position that was different to the other schemes," said lead designer David Adjaye, 42, who was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and is now based in London and New York. His parents are both from Ghana. "We are celebrating an incredible journey and looking to the future."
¶ The crown concept, which would allow natural light to flow into the structure through bronze screens, was inspired by images from African and American history, Adjaye said, "this idea of uplifted praise sort of imagery."
¶ It evokes traditional headdresses worn by African-American women, as well as the colonial crown from Africa and the idea "that a hat-wearing person is a free person ... who doesn't have to carry a load but could wear a hat," he said.
¶ The bronze exterior would have a "dynamic and changing view," depending on the sun's angle and cloud cover. At night, it would glow with light emerging from its skin, the architects said.
¶ Adjaye, who designed the Nobel Centre in Norway, said winning the National Mall project is the defining moment of his career.
¶ The design process will take up to three years and is subject to approval from groups that oversee architecture in the nation's capital. Construction is expected to begin in 2012, with an opening slated for 2015.
¶ Congress has pledged to provide half of the museum's $500 million cost, with private fundraising to cover the rest.
¶ Museum Director Lonnie Bunch said he was looking for a building that would speak of the resiliency, optimism and spirituality of the African-American community.
¶ "This does it," Bunch said, standing near a model of the proposed design. The shimmering bronze, he said, "talks of a people's presence, regardless of what happens," and will mark a change in Washington architecture.
¶ "Even though it's geometric, it still breaks the kind of neoclassical formality of the rest of the mall," Bunch said. "I think that's a good thing to come."
¶ The Freelon Bond group was familiar to Smithsonian officials, who had contracted it to determine the structural needs for the museum's galleries and theaters and presented the plan to all of the competing teams.
¶ J. Max Bond Jr., a principal on the team's planning phase and a prominant black architect, died of cancer in February.
¶ Philip G. Freelon, a North Carolina-based principal of the team, said the museum would complement the mall and its tallest neighbor, the Washington Monument.
¶ "We're not looking to mimic what's around us but to complement the mall and the buildings around and also to create a statement of our own," he said, and the design will evolve. "It's not a building yet; it's an idea."
¶ Freelon has designed prior black history projects, including Baltimore's Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture.
¶ The six finalists for the project will remain on view at the Smithsonian Castle through Thursday. Visitors had mixed reactions to the various concepts, which all depart from the mostly boxy museums of Washington.
¶ Margaret Gass, 56, of Carlisle, Iowa, got a peak at the designs while visiting her son in Washington.
¶ "It's stark," Gass said of the winning design concept, adding that it was not her favorite. Still, she said, "it's different enough to be recognizable."
¶ She preferred an oval-shaped design from a team led by acclaimed architect Sir Norman Foster of London. But her son, Charles Bibilos, 31, said the winning design could be a good fit for the city.
¶ "I think this is conservative enough for the mall," he said. "As a building, I think it fits a little bit better with everything else that's going on on the mall."
¶ ___
¶ On the Net:
¶ National Museum of African American History and Culture:

Exciting News About "Black Men Built The Capitol"

First, I want to thank everyone again for supporting "Black Men Built The Capitol: Discovering African American History In and Around Washington, D.C." For a few weeks, BMBTC was the No. 2 selling African American themed book on, behind only Barack Obama's "Dreams of My Father." That is incredible, and thanks to all of the support I've gotten from you, the readers.

The exciting news I have today is something you may have already noticed if you're a fan of e-books. "Black Men Built The Capitol: Discovering African American History In and Around Washington, D.C." is now available on Amazon's Kindle reader. That means if you have one of those fabulous Kindles (A friend of my wife has one and absolutely raves about it) you can now buy BMBTC as an e-book. Isn't that cool?

And to make it even better, Amazon has now made their Kindle library available for those people who have iPhones and iPod Touches. Now that's a great business decision, considering how many people have iPhones and iPods (including me!) The day they announced that Kindle books would be available on the iPod, I went out and downloaded the software so I could buy BMBTC! After a couple of false starts, I got my book on my iPod this morning and it looks great!

(By the way, Black Men Built The Capitol ranked as the No. 1 Kindle book in the Americana section earlier today. Wow!)

And here's a second bit of news on the format front! "Black Men Built The Capitol: Discovering African American History In and Around Washington, D.C." is about to go hardcover! For those who don't already have a copy of BMBTC, the edition available in most stores is a softcover version. But now, if you're a member of the Black Expressions book club, you can get a special edition of Black Men Built The Capitol in hardcover!

If you don't know what Black Expressions is, it's one of the most popular African American book clubs in the nation. Part of that is because Black Expressions Book Club's parent company, Doubleday Entertainment, calls itself the preeminent marketer of books and merchandise via direct mail and e-commerce in the U.S. (Yowza!)

The hardcover edition will only be available through Black Expressions, so if you want a copy, you have to join up! (I don't even have a copy of the hardback version! I'm going to join up with Black Expressions at, just so I can buy some of the hardback versions.)

We expect the book to be listed sometime around May or June, so keep your eyes peeled. A hardcover version. Wow.
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Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture

¶ WASHINGTON (AP) _ Six design teams _ all with prominent black principals _ will compete for two months to design a national black history museum on the National Mall, the Smithsonian Institution announced Thursday.
¶ The National Museum of African American History and Culture will likely be the last new museum building added to the grounds between the Washington Monument and Capitol. The design finalists have created structures that include the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco and an expanded Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York.
¶ Museum Director Lonnie Bunch, who will lead a jury to make the final selection, is looking for a design that "speaks about resiliency and optimism and spirituality," he said.
¶ In early April, the six design proposals will go on display at the Smithsonian Castle for the public to help choose a winner by April 10. It will be the first time the Smithsonian has sought public comment in a museum design competition, spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas said.
¶ The museum did not require design teams to include black architects. But the groups had to show an appreciation of black history and culture. During the design phase, "they've got to embrace and wrestle with the African American experience," Bunch said.
¶ One practical question: "How do you build something right by the Washington Monument and the White House?" Bunch said.
¶ The building, set to open in 2015, would be the closest museum to the towering marble obelisk and is to be the first museum on the Mall to be certified as environmentally friendly. Each design team will receive a $50,000 stipend for the competition.
¶ Another prominent black history project in Washington has drawn scrutiny for its design. Organizers of the planned Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial have been criticized for selecting a Chinese sculptor to create the central King statue, though the primary architect for the project is an African American.
¶ For the last museum built on the Mall, the National Museum of the American Indian, there was no design competition. The Smithsonian hired a Canadian architect with roots in the Blackfoot tribe in 1993 but fired him about five years later after a dispute with his U.S. partners over money. Smithsonian planners said they are trying to avoid such problems by hiring a collaborative group.
¶ "This is a long-term relationship and national museums take a long time to develop," said Sheryl Kolasinski, director of Smithsonian planning and project management. "We're selecting an architectural team as much as a design."
¶ Congress has pledged to provide half of the museum's $500 million cost, with private fundraising to cover the balance.
¶ The finalists for the project are:
¶ _ Devrouax & Purnell Architects/Planners, P.C, and Pei Cobb Freed & Partners Architects, LLP
¶ _ Diller Scofidio + Renfro in association with KlingStubbins
¶ _ Foster + Partners/URS
¶ _ Freelon Adjaye Bond in association with SmithGroup
¶ _ Moody Nolan Inc. in association with Antoine Predock Architect PC
¶ _ Moshe Safdie and Associates Inc. in association with Sultan Campbell Britt & Associates
¶ ^___=
¶ On the Net:
¶ National Museum of African American History and Culture:


And did you catch me on on PBS's NewsHour on Friday?

And here's a mention in Clarence Page's column!

Bush's lessons for Obama

OK, how many of you are going to miss the George W. Bush years? Can I see a show of hands?
There is little question that President Bush became an extremely valuable, if involuntary asset to Barack Obama's long march to the White House. I think Bill Maher was the first comedian I heard joke that President Bush messed up the country so badly that the voters felt they had to send in a black man to clean it up.

Lenny Bruce said humor is tragedy plus time. A lot of tragedy preceded the joy that Obama's landmark inauguration celebrates. The White House and the U.S. Capitol were constructed with slave labor, we are reminded by a new book, "Black Men Built the Capitol" by Jesse J. Holland. That's no joke.

Near the Mall that stretches in front of the Capitol to the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, African-American slaves once were held in pens, ready for auction. Eight presidents owned slaves.

President George W. Bush quoted one of them, Thomas Jefferson, in his televised farewell speech: "I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past." To that Bush added, "As I leave the house he occupied two centuries ago, I share that optimism." Bush has good reason to be optimistic about the country. The American people are resilient and resourceful enough to survive all kinds of presidencies, even his.

Yet there is a lot that Obama can learn from Bush's past, if only to avoid taking the sort of plunge that Bush's approval ratings took from the great heights he achieved after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

First, presidents should encourage long-range thinking, not just short-term planning.

Toppling Saddam Hussein was easy. Everyone with any knowledge of our military capabilities knew that. Managing Iraq through its transition to self-government is hard. The result is a stain on Bush's record to rival the one that Vietnam left on our memory of Lyndon B. Johnson's years.

Second, certainty and clarity are admirable, but don't get too full of yourself to listen to opposing views.

Obama has shocked some of his fellow left-progressives with his outreach to conservative politicians, columnists and clergy. Bush was cordial enough to everyone, but not known to dine with liberals the way Obama did with conservative columnists at George Will's house recently. Imagine Bush inviting Jon Stewart or Arianna Huffington to tea? Not gonna happen.

Third, sympathy and empathy are not the same. Bush still seemed rather puzzled at his final presidential press conference by the backlash he received for his slow response to Hurricane Katrina. Bill Clinton's critics make fun of his "I feel your pain" line, but his sentiment is better than Bush's inaction, which seemed to tell people in distress that he didn't feel their pain at all.

Fourth, after hearing both sides and pondering the options, make up your mind. Bush, proclaiming himself "the decider," was good at that part. "Like all who have held this office before me, I have experienced setbacks," he said, almost like a benediction. "There are things I would do differently if given the chance. Yet I've always acted with the best interests of our country in mind. I have followed my conscience and done what I thought was right. You may not agree with some of the tough decisions I have made. But I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions."

Which leads to Bush's final lesson for presidents: Keep your sense of humor. Bush has said in his exit interviews that he thinks time will vindicate him, as it has for some other unpopular presidents. Could he be right? Humor is tragedy plus time. For now, I see mostly tragedy.

Another interview!

Slaves built Capitol steps where Obama will stand

San Francisco/Washington, Jan 17: There will be no shortage of potent moments when Barack Obama stands on the steps on the West Front of the US Capitol Jan 20 to be sworn in as the 44th president of the US.

But few will match the poignancy of the fact that the first African-American president will be standing on a structure that was largely built by black slaves; that he will be sworn in using a Bible that was used by Abraham Lincoln, the martyred president who fought a Civil War to end slavery; or that he will be gazing down at the National Mall where Martin Luther King Jr inspired the civil-rights movement with his 1963 "I Have A Dream" speech.

"It closes the circle of history for African-Americans," said Jesse Holland, author of the recent book, "Black Men Built the Capitol", which documented the roles of slave labour in building the physical symbols of US democracy.

"The fact that you now have an African-American holding the highest office in the land - it doesn't indicate that everything is perfect, but it's a definite measure of success and improvement," he said in an interview with DPA.

Holland found that slave labour was involved in virtually every phase of the construction of the White House and the Capitol, from quarrying the Virginia limestone used in the imposing edifice of the Capitol to working on interior features.

He notes that the National Mall, which is now a vast, grassy park filled monuments, government offices and museums, was for many years the site of numerous slave markets.

"Slavery was legal in the District of Columbia until President Abraham Lincoln abolished it in 1865," he said. "Most of the early occupants of the White House were slave owners, so it's tremendously symbolic that Obama will hold his office inside a building that was constructed by slaves."

Obama himself does not descend from a slave family, though his wife Michelle does. Obama's black father was a Kenyan student in Hawaii, and genealogists have found that some ancestors on his white mother's side were actually slave owners.

Nevertheless, on Jan 20 the colour of his skin will speak louder than his specific ancestry - symbolising the progress that African-Americans have made in a country that still enshrined legal segregation in some states less than 50 years ago.

Africans were mostly enslaved in America for some 250 years after they first started arriving in 1607. The Union victory in the US Civil War freed an estimated four million slaves by 1865, by which time they constituted some 10 percent of the entire country's population.

But discrimination continued for more than 100 years as poll taxes, literacy tests and outright terrorism were all tools used to keep blacks from voting across the South. The one-time stronghold of slavery had a rigid system of apartheid, which subjected African- Americans to constant humiliation. Intimidation and lynchings were commonplace and mostly unprosecuted.

Despite the success of the civil rights movement, the black community continues to suffer from a lack of education and a paucity of economic opportunities. Blacks, who are 13 percent of the US population, suffer worse health and shorter life expectancy and account for 45 percent of the prison population.

The poverty rate among African-Americans is 24.5 percent, nearly twice the national rate and more than three times the poverty rate among non-Hispanic whites, according to US census figures.

Obama has acknowledged these difficulties, at the same time as he has challenged the black community to do more to fix its cultural problems and avoid wallowing in the stigma of victimhood. His ascension to power could provide a dramatic boost to those efforts.

"The potency of the moment will travel far beyond the precincts of blackness," journalist Terence Samuel wrote on, a website of black thought. "His success has been a repudiation of an ugly past and some absolution for our long and sinful racial history. That is an American story, and this is a different America."
--- IANS

Washington Post editorial!

Words for This Journey

By Michael Gerson
Friday, January 16, 2009; A19

Along the Mall, off Independence Avenue near Seventh Street, there once stood a building known as the Yellow House. According to Jesse Holland's book "Black Men Built the Capitol," it appeared from the outside like other dwellings. In the basement, with iron bars on the windows and rings in the floor for chains, and in a yard enclosed by a 12-foot wall, enslaved human beings were kept and sold.

One of them was Solomon Northup, a free black man from New York who was kidnapped, sold into slavery and imprisoned there. He later wrote, "Strange as it may seem, within plain sight of this same house, looking down from its commanding height upon it, was the Capitol. The voices of patriotic representatives boasting of freedom and equality, and the rattling of the poor slave's chains, almost commingled."

In a few days, President Barack Obama's voice will mingle with those ghostly sounds and be added to others. Marian Anderson singing "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," though the Daughters of the American Revolution had mocked that hymn's premise. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where a small plaque now marks a holy place of American rhetoric.

If Obama and his talented speechwriter, Jon Favreau, cannot find poetry in this place, they will never find it.

No doubt they will. But there are enemies of poetry and ambition in every speechwriting process. The political advisers who chant, "It's the economy, stupid." The focus group disciples who explain that the dial groups don't like the words "slavery" or "injustice"; they prefer words such as "buttercup" and "marshmallow." The communication consultants who use "rhetorical" as a pejorative because formality doesn't play well "around the kitchen table." Especially in producing an inaugural address, all of them must be ignored. It is appropriate to mention current events, but the State of the Union allows for specificity soon enough. An inaugural presents different tests for a new president: Can he stop talking like a candidate, and speak for the country and its purposes? Can he place his barely started chapter in the context of the American story?

That story has many themes, but one major challenge: a desperate, sometimes bloody, search for unity. The consequential inaugurals confront the issue directly. Presidents before Lincoln attempted to maintain a political union of fractious states. Once shattered, warned Franklin Pierce, "no earthly power or wisdom could ever reunite its broken fragments." Lincoln set out the ideal of a spiritual union -- a union of idealism and of shared suffering -- that transcended race and took a century to even partially achieve. Presidents in the tradition of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt asserted a national unity founded on democratic idealism, in a world gone mad from imperialism, racism and ideology. "The democratic aspiration is no mere recent phase in human history," FDR said in his third inaugural. "It is human history."

In an earlier inaugural speech, Roosevelt observed, "In every land there are always at work forces that drive men apart and forces that draw men together." Those forces remain at work. Through the tumults of the '60s and '70s, America experienced divisions that turned generation against generation. Today our cultural and political differences seem mainly expressed by derision, in a kind of spiritual secession from one another.

It is the primary purpose of presidential leadership to be a force that draws us together -- to declare, as Jefferson did, that we are "brethren of the same principle," to state and plead, as Lincoln did, that "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies." The origin of this unity for Americans is not an accident of blood or birth, but certain shared moral affirmations about the rights and dignity of all men and women -- assertions contained in the Declaration of Independence, and uncontained in their global influence. The existence of those rights imposes duties on government -- and creates obligations of citizens to each other.

In an inaugural address equal to his moment, Obama will summarize a historical achievement he already symbolizes -- and explain how this flawed, grand, God-shaken story moves forward to include everyone. This hope of unity is stronger than all the hypocrisy of our past and louder than the clank of chains. It led men and women to travel on immigrant ships and the Underground Railroad -- and it explains the amazing journey from the Yellow House to a white one just down the street.
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Boston Globe!

At Capitol, slavery's story turns full circle
Historians hope significance comes to light as Obama takes office

By Michael Kranish, Globe Staff | December 28, 2008

WASHINGTON - When Barack Obama takes the oath of office at the US Capitol, the first African-American to become president will be standing amid stonework laid by slaves more than two centuries ago. He will appear before a crowd massed on the Mall, where slaves were once held in pens, ready for auction. He will end his inauguration route at the White House, where the foundations were laid by slaves, and where eight presidents held blacks as their human property.

At nearly every turn of Obama's march to history, the thread that deeply intertwines the founding of the nation with its great stain, slavery, will be evident. Yet for all the attention on Obama's racial breakthrough, the full story of slavery in the nation's capital remains beneath the surface.

While the Lincoln Memorial on the far end of the Mall draws attention to the fight to end slavery, there is no memorial at the spot near the Capitol where slaves were once kept and sold in a three-story building called the Yellow House.

"Many people come down to the National Mall and never realize that they are walking on the site of the slave markets," said Jesse J. Holland, author of the recent book, "Black Men Built the Capitol." Now, with Obama's inauguration, historians are hoping that the role of slaves in the history of building Washington will become more widely recognized.

Obama is the son of a black African father and a white Kansan mother, while his wife, Michelle, has a direct connection to America's history of enslavement, as Obama noted during the presidential campaign, saying the next first lady "carries within her the blood of slaves and slave owners." Her great-great grandfather, on her father's side, was born into slavery and is believed to have lived in a small cabin at a coastal South Carolina rice plantation.

Thus, a story that begins with slavery comes full circle with the arrival of the Obamas. "It is an affirmation of the whole democratic ideal in American history," said historian William Seale, author of "The President's House."

It was in the early 1790s that the government of the United States, founded on the notion that "all men are created equal," began to pay slaveholders for the work of their slaves on both the Capitol and the White House.

"Keep the yearly hirelings at work from sunrise to sunset - particularly the Negroes," the commission that oversaw construction of the Capitol instructed a supervisor, according to documents in a recently compiled congressional report. From 1795 to 1801, there were 385 payments for what was called "Negro hire," referring to the hiring of slaves from their masters to help build the Capitol.

From quarrying sandstone to sawing giant logs, the slaves gradually shaped the Capitol's foundation. While the building has been reconstructed and expanded many times over the years, the stonework laid by slave labor can still be seen at the west elevation of the old North Wing, near where Obama will take the oath of office. Relatively little is known about the slaves who helped build the Capitol, but pay records do provide some of their names, including Gerrard, who was leased for $13, and Will, who was leased for $12.91. One record notes that "Caleb Varnal's Negro Sawyer" was leased for $20.33 on July 6, 1795. The documents don't specify the duration of the slaves' service.

Overlooking the inaugural scene will be the Statue of Freedom, the figure that stands grandly atop the Capitol dome. Yet, as documented in a congressional report, it was a slave named Phillip Reid who played a crucial role in turning a plaster cast into the statue. It is "one of the great ironies in the Capitol's history," the report says, that the statue was made possible by "a workman helping to cast a noble allegorical representation of American freedom when he himself was not free." Reid, who had been purchased for $1,200, later did become free and may have seen the statue hoisted atop the dome.

Similarly, the President's House, as the White House was first known, was constructed with significant help from slave labor, as well as free blacks and whites. Slaves lived in huts amid a cacophony of brick kilns and sawing operations, probably on the site of what is now Lafayette Park. One slave, George, was owned by James Claggett and leased to the federal government for five months, according to a pay stub recently put on display by the National Archives. The document, in elegant script, says that "the commissioners of the Federal District" paid Claggett "for hire of Negro George," for "working at the President's House."

The construction of the President's House began in 1792, with slaves often toiling "seven days a week during the high construction summer months alongside white workers and artisans," according to a history compiled by the White House Historical Association. An estimated 120 slaves helped dig the foundation of the White House and brought stonework to the site. Some of the stonework can still be seen in the exterior of the original, central portion of the building.

The first president to move into the mansion, John Adams of Massachusetts, was antislavery. But his successor, Thomas Jefferson, at various times brought a number of slaves to live with him in the White House. The other presidents who owned slaves while living in the White House were James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, John Tyler, William Henry Harrison, James Polk, and Zachary Taylor, according to the historian Seale.

Part of the history of slaves who lived in the White House is preserved in the thin but remarkable memoir of Paul Jennings, who was owned by Madison and published a volume titled, "A Colored Man's Reminiscences of James Madison."

"When Mr. Madison was chosen President, we came on and moved into the White House," Jennings wrote. "The east room was not finished, and Pennsylvania Avenue was not paved, but was always in an awful condition from either mud or dust. The city was a dreary place."

Jennings recalled how he set up a table at the White House with "ale, cider, and wine, and placed them in the coolers," when a free black raced up and announced that British invaders were on their way into the city. "Clear out, clear out!" the man yelled. The Madison family and Jennings fled just before the arrival of the British, who "ate up the very dinner, and drank the wines, &c., that I had prepared for the President's party," Jennings wrote.

After Madison died, Jennings was able to buy his freedom from Dolley Madison, who later became relatively destitute for a time. Jennings, hearing of the plight of Mrs. Madison, wrote that he "occasionally gave her small sums from own pocket, though I had years before bought my freedom of her."

Now, exactly two centuries after Madison became president and brought slaves with him to the White House, Barack and Michelle Obama will move into the home.

A previous president from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, signed the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves. Asked to explain his decision, Lincoln sat in his White House office, in what is now known as the Lincoln Bedroom, and took out a piece of Executive Mansion stationary. "If slavery is not wrong," Lincoln wrote, "nothing is wrong."


So, did you catch me on CNN's The Situation Room yesterday? If not, here's the transcript!

BLITZER: Today, a rare look at some historic papers that highlight a shameful part of America history, documents about the slaves who helped build the White House right here in Washington. It's an interesting twist to the celebration of the first African- American president of the United States.

Our Samantha Hayes has been looking into these documents.

It shows how the White House was built.

SAMANTHA HAYES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. This is something that the National Archives did for the news media today, because there has been so much intense interest after Barack Obama's election. So, it really was a closer look at those who built the White House brick by brick who never had a chance to experience freedom.


HAYES (voice-over): They are fragile pieces of paper that show whose hands built the president's house, at the bottom, their first names only.

REGINALD WASHINGTON, NATIONAL ARCHIVES: Here, these people endured slavery, endured working essentially for free.

HAYES: Reginald Washington is an expert in African-American records, and can immediately identify slaves on this accounting document, essentially a 200-year-old pay stub.

WASHINGTON: You can see that the slaves are being paid a lesser amount, at five shillings, four shillings, and again four shillings. HAYES: A third the pay of other workers, and that money went to their owners.

Author Jesse Holland notes in his book that the man in charge of building the president's house owned slaves.

JESSE HOLLAND, AUTHOR, "BLACK MEN BUILT THE CAPITOL": James Hoban, the man who designed and was the architect for the construction of the White House, he brought up some of his own personal slaves from South Carolina to work on these projects. And since he was in charge of construction in the White House, he paid himself for the use of his slaves in the construction of the White House and the Capitol.

HAYES: A story not often told about the nation's history, but of particular significance now.

WASHINGTON: And now there's an African-American poised to become the president of the United States. This is somewhat like poetic justice in a way.


HAYES: Well, those old documents have been shown before in 2001, and they may go on display again. It is something that the Archives will consider, depending on public interest.

Obviously, the White House looked a lot different then than it does now, so we will want to show you -- I think we have -- yes, this is very interesting. Of course, this is what it looked like in 1792, which is when some of the documents I was just talking about were made.

Now, later on, in 1824, the South Portico was constructed, in 1830, the North Portico, 1902, the West Wing that we're familiar with. A few years later, the Oval Office was constructed. And, in 1942, the East Wing.

So, Wolf, that is the White House that we know.

BLITZER: Yes, the White House we love. I spent seven years of my life covering the White House.

HAYES: And you know it well.

BLITZER: It was a thrill every single day when I walked through that northwest gate to cover that story. It was a great, great building and a lot of history.

Thanks for bringing it to us, Samantha.

HAYES: Sure.