tv District of Columbia Race in the Early Republic CSPAN August 30, 2019 11:37am-11:49am EDT
know, aren't as functional. we gave some examples. and that immediately caused a firestorm. >> sunday night at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span's q & a. university of maryland history professor george derek musgrove talked about race in the district of columbia during the early republic and antebellum period. he's the author of "chocolate history." >> you decided to co-write a four century story about race and democracy in washington, d.c. why did you decide to narrow it down to washington, d.c. and why not give yourself a more narrow window of time? >> we wrote about d.c. because there was a need. there were a lot of new residents to the city that wanted to know what they were getting into, a lot of older residents who felt the old city slipping away and wanted to understand -- make sure the other people knew that story.
and there hadn't been a good book on race in washington, d.c., for about 20 years, so we wanted to fill that void. the reason we made it 400 years is because most of the books about the city ignored many racial populations in the city, in particular the native american population. so, we wanted to start in the historical beginning, the first time we have written records of washington, d.c., which john smith came up the potomac and went to the native american settlement. >> let's focus on the -- >> from the beginning, the racial makeup of the city, once congress got here in 1800, was about 20% african-american. d.c. was carved out of prime plantation county. there were plantations in the middle of where the city is
today. there was already a large population in the area. as the folks who were building the capitol decided to employ slaves and in certain cases free blacks on the construction projects of building the capitol, that population remained relatively constant through the antebellum period. >> tell me about afterno african-americ african-american, how many were free compared to those enslaved? >> when congress comes to town in 1800, the vast majority of african-americans are enslaved. that changes very rapidly because of changes in agriculture in maryland and virginia. by 1830 half of the african-americans in the city are free, half are enslaved. the reason for that is because tobacco exhausted soil wasn't hosting plantation slavery in the way it could. area planters are switching to grain. in the process they are either manumiting slaves because grain doesn't require as much labor as
tobacco or selling them down the river, so to speak. d.c. becomes in 1830s one of the largest slave exporting cities in the entire nation. >> what role, if any, did race play in the selection of the location of the capitol? >> early congresses are really divide north and south. and they strug to figure out where the capitol is going to be. and in each region -- i should say by the west as well. in each region really wants the capitol in their region to protect their interest. they're also struggling over the issue of assumption, who's going to pay the revolutionary war debts. alexander hamilton at the time treasury secretary and thomas jefferson, secretary of state, washing out a bargain with james madison. they essentially say, look, all of the southern states will agree to support assumption. actually, making sure the federal government pays all of the state's debts from the
revolution aary war if the fedel capital is placed on the poto c potomac. that deal is struck in 1890. you have the residents act and it's agreed the federal capital will be somewhere between northern maryland and the confluence of the antcostia and potomac. george washington is allowed to choose the site and he chooses the present location. >> again, slavery, why do you feel that had an impact on the location of the -- >> oh, well, the southern interests who are angling for a potomac capital want to make sure the capital is in the slave south and that slavery is protected in the national capital. they're particularly interested in that because the capital had been at philadelphia for a large period of time during the continental congress. and philadelphia was becoming increasingly hostile to slavery because there's a large quaker population that was beginning to
turn against the institution. in the 1770s and 1780s in particular. >> so it became in what's known now as washington, d.c. how did that work out for the slave owners? was that advantageous for them as they predicted or were there obstacles that got in their way? >> for slave owners that owned property in the capital it was advantageous because they sold their land to the federal government. they were also able to rent their slaves to the people who were building the national capitol. there were actually slaves rented out to build the capitol, the white house and other public improvements. but slavery in the area wasn't faring well all together. they either manumitted their slaves or sold them on the international slave trade in the years ahead. >> the city of alexandria was at one point a part of the federal district but left. tell me about that alexandria
largest slave trade cities in the country at that time. tell me why it existed from the federal district and why slavery played a role in that decision. >> sure, sure. so, alexandria was part of the ten-mile square initially laid out as the district of columbia. it was part of arlington county, the virginia side of district. and it had been unhappy with the ban on federal buildings on the virginia side of the potomac, which had been written into the resident act for years. it complained people talking about retro seating back to virginia back in the early 19th century. but their efforts really caught steam in the mid-1840s. and the reason for that was because there was tremendous anti-slavery agitation in wash d.c. d.c. specifically to get rid of the slave trade in washington, d.c. in 1846 many of the slave trading interests in virginia
supported alexandria's efforts to retrocede back to virginia. the district became roughly 60% of its original size when they go back to virginia. four years later they were -- four years later in the compromise of 1850 the slave trade is banned in the district, and so they saw it coming and they wanted to get out. >> so, tell me a little bit about "chocolate city: a history of race in the capital." >> we took the term as folks who used it as a nickname for the city in the late 1960s. it becomes famous when there's an ode to the city called "chocolate city." we knew as soon as we put together the book project that we wanted to use that nickname. we make the argument, of course, because d.c. was a majority black city from 1957 until 2011. the first majority black city in the nation. and one of the blackest. it goes up into the mid-70%
range in the 1970s. but we wanted to make the case because of the large black population that had been here since the beginning, at least 20% at every point in the city's history, that d.c. has always been a chocolate city. we always had this large black population that influenced how the city is governed. >> "chocolate city: a race of history of democracy and race in the nation's capital." derek musgrove, thank you for speaking with us. all week we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span3. lectures in history, american artifacts, reel america, the civil war, oral histories, the presidency, and special event coverage about our nation's history. enjoy american history tv now and every weekend on c-span3. a look now at our prime time schedule on the c-span networks. starting at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span, journalists and former
white house officials examine the relationship between the trump administration and the press. on c-span2, it's book tv with highlights from our in-depth series. and on c-span3, american history tv with programs on u.s. legal history. labor day weekend on american history tv, saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern on lectures in history, a discussion about abraham lincoln and native americans. sunday at 4:00 p.m. on reel america, the 1950 army film "invasion of southern france." and monday, labor day, at 8:00 p.m. eastern, the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of virginia's first general assembly held at jamestown. explore our nation's past on american history tv. every weekend on c-span3.
in the late 1850s americans generally trusted their congressmen but they did not trust congress as an institution, nor did congressmen trust each other. by 1860 many congressmen were routinely armed, not because they were eager to kill their opponents but out of fear their opponents might kill them. >> yale history professor and author joanne freeman will be our guest on in depth sunday from noon to 2:00 p.m. eastern. her latest book is "field of blood." her other titles are "essential hamilton," hamilton writings and affairs of honor. join her live conversation with phone calls, tweets and facebook questions. at 9:00 p.m. on after words in his lateststest book "the moral majority" ben howell discusses whether evangelicals are choosing political power over chris shall values. >> i think the lesser evil argument is tempting but dangerous. i think it contributes to keeping a system in place that
takes accountability out of the system. and i think it also is an easy way to bring in something like evangelicalism or any other faith and use that as a way to get votes, which is about the worst possible way to use faith. >> watch book tv every weekend on c-span2. african-american slaves who escaped to union army lines during the civil war became known as contraband. next, we'll show you a discussion on the washington, d.c., contraband hospital created by the federal government to treat former slaves and black soldiers. our speaker this evening is jill r. newmark. an exhibition specialist and curator at the national library of medicine at the national institutes of health. she has worked in the history of