Five Symbolic Buildings Built By Enslaved Black People

white house
Briona Lamback
January 19, 2023

#1: The Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution was built between 1847 and 1855 using enslaved labor who quarried the red stone used in the foundation of the building.

#2: Trinity Church

Trinity Church’s architects rented out the labor of enslaved people to build the 1698 structure. The worst part? The enslavers were the ones who got paid for the work our people did.

#3: Fort Sumter 

South Carolina’s Fort Sumter is an artificial island built from bricks made by the enslaved. But that’s not all. The Confederate army forced our people to repair the fortress while it was under attack, and inevitably, dozens of our people died.

#4: Harvard Law School

Although it’s considered a pinnacle of excellence today, Harvard Law School wouldn’t be what it is without our people. Enslaver Isaac Royall Jr used the wealth he accumulated from sugar plantations and farming to fund the school’s building.

#5: Georgetown University 

Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., sold 272 enslaved Black people to keep the school afloat during hard financial times. They used the money, worth about $3.3 million today, to build the campus and pay off debts. 

Anti-Blackness won’t teach the truth about this history. That’s why we have to. Next time you see these buildings, remember our ancestors whose labor made them possible.

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