The first First Lady’s writings are making the rounds today via a technology she could have never imagined. Abigail Adams is quoted all over social media for a letter she wrote in 1800 regarding her first-hand observations on slaves building the White House. The quotes are in response to Bill O’Reilly’s remarks that slaves who helped build the White House were “well fed.”
Abigail’s letter to her husband, President John Adams, states: “The effects of Slavery are visible every where; and I have amused myself from day to day in looking at the labour of 12 negroes from my window, who are employd with four small Horse Carts to remove some dirt in front of the house. the four carts are all loaded at the same time, and whilst four carry this rubish about half a mile, the remaining eight rest upon their Shovels, Two of our hardy N England men would do as much work in a day as the whole 12, but it is true Republicanism that drive the Slaves half fed, and destitute of cloathing, or fit for labour, whilst the owner waches about Idle, tho his one Slave is all the property he can boast, Such is the case of many of the inhabitants of this place.”
Here’s the original clip.
This online dialogue was prompted by Michelle Obama’s DNC speech the other night wherein she said that she wakes up “every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.”
O’Reilly has since clarified his comments on his program, attributing the criticism to “smear merchants” and that it is “a given that slavery is an abomination.”