Did Slaves Build the White House?

African Americans, enslaved and free, provided most of the manual labor and much of the skilled labor that erected the White House, the United States Capitol, and other early government buildings. Stonemason Collen Williamson trained slaves on the spot at the government's quarry at Aquia, Virginia. Slaves quarried and cut the rough stone that was later dressed and laid by Scottish masons to erect the walls of the President's House. The slaves joined a work force that included local white laborers and artisans from Maryland and Virginia, as well as immigrants from Ireland, Scotland, and other European nations.

The payroll shows that the government did not own slaves, but that it did hire them from their masters. Slave carpenters Ben, Daniel, and Peter were noted as owned by James Hoban. National Archives and Records Administration