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Author Offers Insights on Slavery, the Capitol, and Obama’s Inauguration

Jesse J. Holland, author of "Black Men Built the Capitol: Discovering African American History in and around Washington, D.C." reflects on the poignancy of Barack Obama's inauguration in a city that was built partially by slaves.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And, finally tonight, a special perspective on the Obama inauguration. It comes from an author who traced the story of African-American slaves in Washington.

    JESSE J. HOLLAND, Author, "Black Men Built the Capitol": My name is Jesse J. Holland. I wrote the book "Black Men Built The Capitol: Discovering African-American History in and Around Washington, D.C."

    One of the things that I found was that actual African-American slaves were used in the construction of the U.S. Capitol and the White House. Out of just about the 600 or so people who worked on the Capitol, maybe about 400 were African-American slaves.

    So, they would bring in all these slaves from these plantations around Washington, D.C. And the area where Barack Obama is going to take his oath of office, right in front of that, there will be hundreds of thousands of people sitting in chairs. That area used to be a tent city for these slaves and workers.

    On Inauguration Day, that area will be filled with dignitaries. It will be filled with politicians. But, on that land where they're sitting, African-American slaves actually used to live while they worked on the Capitol.

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