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U.S. House acknowledges slave labor's role in Capitol statue

July 8, 2009 |  2:45 pm

Crawford Reid As Culture Monster noted last January, just prior to Barack Obama's swearing in as president, both the U.S. Capitol building and the "Statue of Freedom" atop its dome were erected with the labor of slaves. For instance, the complex casting and assembly of Thomas Crawford's 15,000-pound bronze sculpture (pictured) were overseen by Philip Reid, a slave at the foundry just outside Washington where the work was fabricated.

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed a resolution directing the installation of a plaque in the Capitol Visitor Center acknowledging the contributions of enslaved African Americans to the project -- including the work on Crawford's sculpture undertaken by Reid, the only person identified by name in the resolution. The House measure was sponsored by Georgia Democrat John Lewis. It passed on a vote of 399 to 1, with Iowa Republican Steve King the lone dissenter.

The Senate is considering a similar resolution.

-- Christopher Knight

Credit: Architect of the Capitol

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