Lots of white Americans remain bewildered by the feelings and comments of some black Americans, especially those of a generation ago (just see the comments on one of my posts from yesterday!). The legacy of segregation, Jim Crow, lynchings, and a system born of prevailing racism shaped all of us as a people, and it infected our systems and institutions where it still lingers today.
Frankly, our national story to date has not been completed, not fully reported, not sufficiently understood and certainly not appropriately honored.
On Monday, I listened to a fascinating report on NPR's new program, "Tell Me More," moderated by Michel Martin. "Built by Slaves: A Capitol History Lesson" is worth your time.
Most of us don't realize that the rotunda of the capitol was built from ground to dome by slave labor.
Did you realize that the statue Freedom atop the capitol dome was the work of Philip Reed, a slave who saw the work of his hand and heart lifted to the top of the dome on December 2, 1863, by which time he had been freed?
Slaves cut the stones of the capitol walls and their masters were paid $5 per month for the labor of each worker.
Eight paintings grace the walls of the Capitol Rotunda.
None include African Americans.
A history frieze is painted around the inner perimeter of the rotunda. The frieze ends with the Civil War. An original painting depicted Abraham Lincoln delivering the Emancipation Proclamation. This painting was later removed and replaced by a portrait of a Union soldier shaking hands with a Confederate soldier.
Not until the Congress acted in the mid-1980s did the Capitol enjoy the presence of a sculpture of any African American national leader. It was at that time that our representatives commissioned the depiction of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shortly before the establishment of his birthday as a national holiday.
Listen to the report. View the photos. Open your heart of a huge group of people who have reason to be rejoicing today, but who also need us to agree that we will not forget.