Well Fed, Decent Lodgings
First Lady Michelle Obama, in her DNC speech the other night, referenced the use of slaves in the building of the White House.
Last night, Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly ended his segment clarifying that there were also “free blacks, whites and immigrants at work on the massive building.”
O’Reilly also said these slaves were “well fed and had decent lodgings.”
O’Reilly admits he is at heart a history teacher and that is what makes his choice of words so important.
Lesson plans are tailored, often with the addition (or omission) of facts by the teacher, to achieve a specific outcome.
So it is with O’Reilly and he is very good at it.
His words are both mitigating and exculpatory regarding the use of slaves as he asserts that others were workers too and that they ate and slept well.
He is correct, a hired-out slave working on the White House would have been near the top of the pyramid of slavery; Â some were expert stonemasons, working away from their owners for long periods. Â It’s also conceivable that some were allowed to retain part of their wages, perhaps to eventually buy their freedom.
And, the D.C. area, as it was yet to be called, was by most standards a fair place to be black.
But, while there were always free blacks in the city they lived under the constant threat of being kidnapped by white slavers and being sold south, often to a certain death.
The area where the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum is today is the general location of one of Washington’s most notorious slave pens, the Yellow House, where black families were split up and sold off like hogs at auction.
To be a “historian” as O’Reilly asserts, and to present slavery facts in a mitigating and cleansed context is to both betray history and engage in histrionics.
Does Bill O’Reilly know that slavery continues to this day, all across the land, including right here in Washington, D.C.?
These slaves are young, usually female, and many have been lured or kidnapped into being forcibly used as sex workers, turning dozens of tricks a day while also being brutalized.
O’Reilly could also describe them asÂ being “well fed” and having “decent lodgings.”
Yes, perhaps, but hardly accurate and not really truthful, either.