Chocolate District City: Historical 6 Site Synopsis
The places within the Nation’s Capital went through a myriad of changes over the course of time ranging from the 19th century to the 21st century. Race has significantly impaired the ability of people to live in harmony under values that uphold truth, justice, and equity. There has been a struggle for power before the founding of Washington D.C. and the racial history present has impacted the community relations between government, races, citizens and working classes. There were interracial movements that would influence the push for desegregation and integration, still, that would lead to more issues of covert racism and discriminatory practices. The Nation’s Capital represented the hypocrisy of democracy as citizens continued to fight for self governance after the historic protest of “taxation without representation” and some Washingtonians were denied basic rights as people. The city became referred to as a political colony, where the political leaders at the time had more influence on the trajectory of the city than the locals causing friction for the capital to embody the ideals of freedom, democracy and justice for all.
Chocolate City’s presentation of D.C.’s history, documents Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which authorized Congress to “exercise exclusive Legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States.” Article I, Section 8 is imperative to mention due to its influence on local politics within the city and the citizens inability to exercise their rights and privileges of residents of a state. This entailed Congress mandating residents to abide by the laws of the states that had ceded the land (Chocolate City, p. 35). The White House was established in 1800 during a dismal time of injustice and humane acts of atrocity, the ‘Executive Mansion’ (e.g. White House) was built by the hands of enslaved people. The White House Historical Association states “The D.C. commissioners, charged by Congress with building the new city under the direction of the president, initially planned to import workers from Europe to meet their labor needs. However, response to recruitment was dismal and soon they turned to African American—enslaved and free—to provide the bulk of labor that built the White House, the United States Capitol, and other early government buildings.”
Chocolate City discussed the horrors of slavery and racism throughout the 17th century leading up to the 21st century. The enslaved people were tasked by Stonemason Collen Williamson at Aquia, Virginia to quarry and cut the rough stone that would be used to erect the walls of the White House. The enslaved workers oftentimes had to work alongside white laborers and artisans from Maryland, Virginia, Ireland, Scotland and other European nations. The sanctimony that existed in the city regarding the inhumane treatment and usage of enslaved workers was detailed with names ranging from captains, ‘business’ people, or even politicians- including but not limited to Captain Elisha Williams, Edward Burrows, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Anna Thorton, Notley Young, etc. (Chocolate City, p. 32-33). Many enslaved workers in the city were identified as “hirelings,” which are slaves hired out from their masters for a contracted period that would help assemble the Nation’s Capitol with no provision for being recognized as people. The act of slavery and its effects are revolting and hellish as there were enslaved people who would starve, be killed like cattle, hunted like dogs, or raped shamelessly in the city that would become the capital of a nation that positioned itself on the cornerstone of democracy, equality and justice.
The White House is a major site in the city and was built by the Irish-born architect James Hoban. The mansion design was intended as one of three focal points on Pierre L'Enfant’s DC plan with the Capitol and Washington Monument. The building can represent the struggle of the government, the battle for federalists to advance centralizing federal power and District residents not having the eligibility to vote in national or federal elections. DC residents were described as being “children, over whom it is not our wish to tyrannize, but whom we would foster and nurture,” by Representative James Asheton Bayard of Delaware (Chocolate City, p. 37). The disenfranchisement of District residents was codified into federal law and likened to the status of slaves causing for democracy to be seen more as an ideal than a reality. In May 1836, Congress passed the gag rule insisting that it “ought not to interfere in any way with slavery in the District of Columbia and Congress resolved not to take any action on all petitions, memorials, resolutions, propositions, or papers relating in any way, or to any extent whatever, to the subject of slavery, or the abolition of slavery.’ In truth, injustice and slavery was embedded in the Nat