tv District of Columbia Race in the Early Republic CSPAN August 30, 2019 5:26pm-5:38pm EDT
>> watch book tv every weekend on cspan2. university of maryland history professor george derek musgrove talked about race in the district of columbia during the early republic and ante bell up period. he is the author of chocolate city with a history of race and democracy in the nation's capitol. >> you decided to cowrite 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? >> well, 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 other people knew the story. and there hadn't been a good book on race in washington, d.c. in about 50 years. and so we wanted to philamena void. the reason we made it 400 years
is because most of the books about the city neglected some of the really important 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 in washington, d.c. and that was in 1608 when john smith came up the potomac river from jamestown and went to the native american village on the banks of the and a costia river. >> let's focus on the early american period. and what was the racial makeup in the nation's capitol at that time. >> from the beginning the racial makeup of the city once congress got here in 1,800 was about 20% african-american. d.c. was carved out of prime tobacco plantation county. there were plantations dead in the middle of the where the city is today. there was already a large black population in the area. as the folks building the capitol decided to employ slaves and in certain cases free blacks
on the construction projects ofabling the capitol that population remained relatively constant through the post civil war period. >> and tell me about for african-americans how many were free compared to those enslaved. >> initially when congress comes to town in 180 oh the vast majority of african-americans are enslaved. that changes rapidly larnlly because of changes in agriculture in maryland and virginia. about 1830 about half of the african-americans in the city are free half enslaved. and the reason is it is that foek exhausted soil wasn't hosting plantation slavery in the way it could. they are switching to grain. and in the process they are either manu mitting slaves because grain doesn't require as much labor as tobacco. and d.c. becomes one of the largest slave exporting cities in the entire nation in the
1830s. >> what role did race play in the selection of the placement of the capitol? >> the early congresss are really divided north and south. and they struggle to figure out where the capitol is going to be. in each region -- i should say by the west as well. and each region wants the capitol in their region to protect in re interests. they're also really struggling over the issue of assumption who is paying the revolutionary war debts. alexander hamilton at the time that treasury secretary, and thomas jefferson, secretary of state work pout a bargain with james madison. and they essentially say, look all the southern states will agree to support assumption, actually making sure that the federal government pays all of the state's debts from the revolutionary war if the federal capitol is placed on the potomac river. that deal is struck in 1790.
you have sparlt the residents act. and it's agreed that the federal capitol will be somewhere between northern maryland and the confluence cht and i yooft and potomac rivers. and george washington is allowed to choose the sight and he chooses the present location. >> so, again, slavery, why do you feel that it o had an impact on the location of the -- >> the southern interests tahoe owe who are angling for a potomac capitol want to make sure the capitol is in the slave south and that slavery is protected in the national capitol. they are particularly interested in that because the capitol had been at philadelphia for a large period of time during the continental congress. and philadelphia was becoming increasingly hostile to slavery because there was a large quaker population that was beginning to turn against the institution in the 1780s -- 1770s and 1780s in
particular. >> it became in what's known now as washington, d.c. and how did that work out for the slave owners? was it advantageous for them as predicted? or was there obstacles that got in the way. >> for the slave owners owning property in the capitol it was advantageous because they were able to work out deals where they sold land to the federal government. they were also able to rent their slaves to the people who were building the national capitol. and so there were slaves rented out the to build the capitol, the white house and other public improvements. but slavery in the area wasn't fares well altogether so they either man yew mitted the slaves or sold them to the trade in the years ahead. >> the city of alexandria was at one point of federal district but left. tell me about the decision and alexandria was one of the largest slave trade trade cities in the country at that time tell me about why it exited in 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. part of arlington county which is essentially the virginia side of the district. and it had been unhappy with the ban on federal buildings on the virginia sited of the potomac which had been written in the residents act for years. it had been complaining that tld been talking about retroseeding back to virginia back in the early 19th century. but the efforts caught steam in the mid-1840s. and the reason for that was there was tremendous anti-slaveriage station in washington, d.c. specifically to get rid of the slave trudy in washington, d.c. and so in 1846 many of the slave trading interests in virginia supported alexandria's efforts to retrocede back to virginia. congress vote to do in as well.
and the congress became 60% of its original size when they go back to virginia. they were preskrient. four years later and the slaved trade is banned in the district they saw it coming. and they wanted to get out. >> so tell me a bit about clolgt city, a history of race and democracy in the nays nation's capitol. why chocolate city what does it mean. >> we took the term from folks who had used it as a nickname for the city in the late 1960s. it becomes famous when articlement funk a dellic writes an owed to washington, d.c. called chocolate city. we knew as soon as we want we put it together we wanted to use the nickname. we make the argument because d.c. was majority black from the 1957 to the 2011, the first majority black city in the nation. one cht black et up to the mid-70% range in the 70s. 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 of the city history that d.c. has always been a chocolate city. we've always had a large black population that influenced how the city is governed. >> a history of race and democracy in the nation's capitol. derek mofrpgs thank you for speaking with us. >> all week we feature american history tv programs as a ve prevow of what's available every weekend on cspan2. the lectures in history. american artifacts, real 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 cspan3. a look now at our primetime schedule on the cspan networks starting 8:00 p.m. eastern on cspan. journalists and former white house officials examine the relationship between the trump administration and the press. on cspan2 it's book tv.
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>> 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 -- >> our speaker this evening is jill l new mark an exhibit iks specialist and kurter at the national library of medicine at the national institutes of health. worked in the history of medicine division of nlm the past 15 years where she conducts research on african-american medical personnel that served during the american civil war. she has curated several exhibitis binding wounds pushing boundaries accen americans in civil where medicine and authored several articles th