tv Book Discussion on The Invisibles CSPAN February 28, 2016 4:00pm-5:01pm EST
rights activists and cofounder of the national organization of women, polly murray, and first lady eleanor roosevelt. on thursday, former bush justice department official john you will weigh in on the expansion of the federal government during the obama administration at a taping of our weekly author interview program, afterwards from our studio in washington dc. live next sunday at 12:00 p.m. eastern, the new yorker's jane mayer will be our guest on in-depth to take your questions and talk about her book, which includes her most recent on the influence of big money in politics, dark money. that's a look at some of the author programs book tv is covering this week. many of these events are open to the public. look for them to air in the near future on book tv on c-span 2. >> i will begin by saying i'm delighted to welcome jesse as he
presents his second book, invisible: the untoward-- untold story of african-americans in the white house. he's a nationally recognized journalist and media authority who as contributed hundreds of articles in african american history, politics, news. he makes regular appearances on c-span's washington journal, abc's news now, and evening exchange. he is also long-standing contributor and a political reporter for the associated press and a supreme court correspondence. in his first book, he pointed out the many iconic buildings and structures and monuments including the capital zone statue of freedom that was constructed at least in part by enslaved black men. in his latest offering, he lays his focus on the extensive and historically overlooked roles that african-americans have played in the history of the white house. of our first, 10 were slave
>> good evening, everyone. >> good evening. >> glad to see everybody came out in the snow. i'm so glad to actually be here tonight. this is, actually, going to be my first time talking in public about this book. i made a couple of presentations to friends and each to a group of -- and even to a group of peers, but this is the first time i'm actually taking this show on the road, basically. and it's -- i'm a little nervous, but i'm glad everyone actually came out to sit and listen tonight. well, as you already heard, the title of the book is "the invisibles: the untold story of african-american slaves in the white house," and it's a project i've been working on since about 2008, 2009. it actually started out as an idea i had while i was riding on
the campaign bus of then-senator barack obama. we had, we were back in chicago where he had gone for a weekend stay at his house. and i remember sitting on the campaign bus and thinking what am i going to write next. i had just finished up my first book which was called black men who built the capitol, discovering history in and around washington, d.c. and i knew i wanted a follow up. and everyone was talking about the historic barack obama campaign, that if he had won, if he wins, he would be the first black president. he'd be the first african-american president to live inside the white house. and i knew there was something there, but i couldn't put my hands on it. i sat and i thoughting on that bus and thought and thought. and then it hit me.
part of what i did in my first book was talk about how slaves helped build the u.s. capitol expect white house. and then i, my mind went a little further. well, if they helped build the white house, then they must have helped the white house run because those same presidents who were slave holders on their home plantation, they didn't stop being slave holders when they moved to washington. they must have brought some of them with them. there had to be a story there. that meant that barack obama wouldn't be the first black man to live in the white house, he would just be the first president. but no one knew who these people were. and that -- i knew i had it right hen and there. right then and there. that's what i was going to write about it. i was going to write about the slaves who lived in the white house. now, after i had that -- i
remember being so excited that i had this idea. i remember calling my editor and saying this is what i want to write, this is what i want to do. he said, calm down and make sure you're doing something that you think worthy of spending time on. so, you know, after i wrote my first book i knew i wanted to become better at writing books. so i actually went back to school. i went to goucher college -- [applause] yeah. and so the invisibles actually started out as my thesis. so i worked, i've been working on this since i entered in 2012 -- i entered in 2010 and came out in 2012. and the thesis is, frankly, the first part of the book.
and then i kept writing on it for a couple years. and believe me, i want to acknowledge one person here tonight by the way, before i go any further. because all the time i took writing this book would have been completely impossible if not for the support of my wife, carol, who is sit right there. [applause] one of this, none of -- none of this would exist without her. but the finished project, what "the invisibles "does, the book does, it -- i hope -- restores some of the dug anity -- dignity that these people lost through their circumstances. they were slaves of the u.s. presidents. but even though they lived at the most famous address in the united states, very little's known about their lives. and each to this -- and even to
this day most of what we learn about them comes from what other people saw. because to the people in their times, they were property. they weren't worth recording. their lives weren't worth recording outside of ledgers, outside of letters. so hopefully what this does is bring a little bit of that dignity back to them. there are a couple of passages from the book i want to read to you tonight, and i'll start with this one. over the last few weeks, there's been a little kerfuffle in the publishing world about a children's book about george washington's slaves. there was a children's book that was going to be published called "a birthday cake for george washington." this was a book that was going to talk about how happy two of george washington's slaves were for baking a birthday cake for george washington.
and as you might, as you might not be surprised, people weren't very happy about the fact that they were going to write a book about how happy these people were to be enslaved and baking a birthday cake for george washington. when i heard about this i'm like, wait a minute, i know that name. the person that the book was going to be about was a slave named hercules. hercules was one of these white house slaves that i write about. and i want to read you a little bit about him because, as you can see from the reading, hercules wasn't very happy to be a slave. now, to set this up, george washington never actually lived inside the white house. he lived in executive mansions in both and philadelphia. and this, at this time period george washington is getting
ready to end his second term as president, and he's getting -- and hercules is with him in the executive mansion, in the president's house which is actually still there in philadelphia. so i'll pick up there. hercules was a clear favorite of the washington family who described him in glowing terms for years afterward. quote: he was a dark brown man, little, if any. about the usual size, yet possessed of such great miss lahr power as entitled to him to be compared with his namesake of famous history. upon alice's death, martha washington ordered that hercules be given three bottles of rum to bury his wife. and his skill and discipline in the kitchen were legendary.
quote: the chief cook gloried in the cleanliness and nicety of his kitchennen. under his iron discipline, woe to his underling if speck or spot could be so farred on the -- discovered on the tables or dressers or if utensils did not shine like polished silver. with the luckless whites who had offended these petit larceny, there was no arrest or -- because of his skills hercules got privileges other slaves could only dream of. there were tickets to see a play in the southwick theater and spectacular riding act probates at the rickets circus according to account books. hercules was also allowed to open his own business in philadelphia and keep the money he made. the slave chefs sold the kitchen slops, leftover foods like animal skips, used tea leaves and rendered tallow that were
not used in the president's meals to outsiders to make a little must money of its own, apparently with the washington family's blessing. hercules' little side business was apparently very lucrative. money, quote, from the slops of the kitchens were $1 or $200 a year. what did hercules do with this money? he apparently decided that he was tired of the clothes that washington provided him and went out and purchased all new clothes of his own. his -- quote. his linen was of unexceptional quality, ditto waistcoats, stockings, i shoes highly polished with large buckles covering a considerable part of the foot, blue cloth coat with collar and bright metal buttons, a long watch chain dangling from
his fob completed the grand costume of the celebrated dandies, for there were dandies of those days. hercules soon became known for his wardrobe in which he would stroll proudly down the streets of philadelphia to see and be seen. many were not surprised on beholding such extraordinary personage while others who knew him would make a formal and respectful bow that they might see and return the salute of one of the most polished gentlemen of nearly 60 years ago. hercules' status vaulted him to the top of the slave society and into the eyes of white american society. there's a portrait believed to be of hercules painted by gilbert stewart, the same artist who did the most famous painting of george washington.
hercules gazes out across history, quote: a large cinnamon-colored man in immaculate chef whites with a kerr chief tied around his neck. but despite his fancy clothes and wondrous culinary creations for the president, his family and their guests, hercules was still a slave. he chase -- chafed at his life restraints, one of which were the frequent trips back to mount vernon required by the president to insure that his philadelphia slaves never became free. and then only judge escaped from the president's house which apparently changed washington's attitude toward his beloved slaves. judge's escape brought questioning of the rest of the president's house slaves about their loyalty to their master.
they obviously knew about the six month time limit, but hercules tried to quell any doubts that washington had about whether he was thinking about following judge's example. according to lear, washington's secretary in 1791. quote: someday i presume -- minute, i presume, insinuated to him that the motive for sending him so long before you was expected there was to prevent his taking advantage of a six month residence in this place. when he was possessed of this idea, he appeared to be extremely unhappy. and although he made not the least objection to going, yet he said he was mortified to the last degree that a suspicion could be entertained of his fidelity or attachment. so much did the young fellow's -- [inaudible] that left no doubt of his sin certainty. -- sincerity. mrs. washington told him he should not go to that time but
might remain until the expiration of the six months and then go home to prepare for your arrival there. he is accordingly continued here til this time and tomorrow takes his departure for virginia. and then there was rich monday. hercules son was clearly not a favorite of washington's. around 4 when he came to -- around 14 when he came to philadelphia, richmond only lasted one year and was sent back to mount vernon in 1791. and because of richmond, washington got his first inkling that hercules might not be as content in captivity as the president thought. richmond was caught stealing money at mount vernon in november 1796 according to a letter washington sent as he was wrapping up his affairs in philadelphia. washington diseased to wash the -- decided to warn the overseers just in case the slave
cook was concocting something. quote, i hope richmond was made an example of. i wish he may not have been put upon it by his father, although i had no -- i never had any suspicion of his honesty of the latter. for the purpose perhaps of a journey together, washington said in a letter to william pearce on november 14, 1796, quote: this will make a watch with it being suspected by or intimated to them necessary. nor would i have the suspicions communicated to any other lest it produce more harm than good. retch monday was eventually -- richmond was eventually demoted to a simple laborer, but now washington was worried about hercules. during his final months in philadelphia when he sent his slaves back to mount vernon, he ordered that hercules be left behind when it came time to take his entourage back to
philadelphia. this had to come as a shock to the chef who by now had become accustomed to city life. hercules, who had been nope for his fine -- known for his fine silk clothes, suddenly found himself that november in the coarse linens and woolens of a field slave. washington ordered him placed out in the fields with the other slaves digging clay for 100,000 bricks, spreading dung, grubbing bushes and smashing stones into sand to coat the houses on the property. according to farm reports and a november memo from washington to his farm manager, quote: that will keep them out of idleness and mischief, washington wrote. by february 1797 hercules had had enough. before dawn on february 22, 797, the slave chef made his break
for freedom from mount vernon. interestingly enough, hercules chose josh washington's 65th birthday as the day of his escape, perhaps hoping that the festivities going on around the president's celebration would massing his disappearance or perhaps thinking anyone who saw him out on the open roads would assume the well known chef was simply out to procure an item for washington's party. regardless of the reasoning, hercules' plan was successingful. he simply vanished with no one the wiser. there has not been found any evidence of a manhunt or even an acknowledgment of hercules' departure for at least four days. a february 25th, 1797 weekly farm report discovered recently by mount vernon historian mary b. thompson simply says herb lease ab sonned four days ago.
maybe he was going out to get something to bake that birthday cake. [laughter] so this is what life was really like when people were trying to write a book saying that george washington's slaves were happy to be there and glad to be baking him a birthday cake. well, you know, i don't think hercules was very happy to be there. there are stories like this all throughout the white house saves. a lot of them were just victims of circumstance. they were born into slavery. a lot of them didn't like it. and made the best of the circumstances as they could. that's not to say everyone, every slave who worked in the white house wasn't happy. midwest of them were.
there were exceptions though. out of all of the slaves' lives that i've looked at in the white house, there was at least one person i found who actually wouldn't escape even when given a chance. he decided that it was better to be a slave in the white house than to be free. and i want to read you a little bit about him. this is someone named elias polk. because of its popularity after jane polk's death, we know a little more about elias polk's life outside the white house. he was born in member mecklenbu, north carolina, and moved to tennessee when he was just a baby.
polk would brag for the rest of his life that he encountered every president from john quincy adams through grover cleveland including tennessee celebrity andrew jackson who made a great impression on the young slave. quote: it was his delight all his life to tell how the famous soldier noticed him. general jackson stopped at the newspaper. when he was ready to leave, elias was sent around for his horse, a big, gray, magnificent animal, old hickory. after he mounted, reared back in a majestic way and put his hand in his pocket he pulled out a six and four pence which he gave to the fellow. elias polk was given to the future president when he was a 12-year-old child. after is serving as valet and body servant, he began driving his master to washington, d.c. during his political career and staying in the capital with him.
having spent his entire adult life with polk, elias polk became very attached and wouldn't leaf even when -- leave even when given the chance. while on his way to washington for the first time as president, the polks were riding aboard the steam boat china when it docked in cincinnati, and a group of abolitionists boarded. the men and women demanded to know whether polk had any slaves aboard. because their intent was to free them. a friend of polk went to the president-elect to tell the president-elect what was happening, and the president-elect sent back this message: mr. polk wishes you to the know that his coachman and his coachman's wife are at present, he thinks, eating their dinner. he says that you are at perfect liberty to interview them and offer them whatever inducements you like. he says, furthermore, that
should hisser servants wish to o with you, they are free to go. according to an author, the slaves were not ready the go. expecting to be hailed as delivering angels and thanks with shouts of hallelujah, praise the lord, the abolitionists were first bewildered and then irate. they could not persuade the pair to leave their master, he said in the book, "the presidents and the negro." in today's parlance elias polk would have been a complete uncle tom; a black man who was more in love with his own captors than he was with the idea of freedom. elias polk proved over and over where his loyalties were, even when given a chance to be free. quote: it was elias' custom to drive his master in his carriage to washington. the first journey was made in 1826 when james k. polk was elected to congress.
after one of these trips, a night was pent at wilkes bar, pennsylvania. the next morning while elias was in the stable getting his horses ready, several white men approached him and asked him if he didn't know he was free. they told him he was in a state where a man could not be held a slave, and all he had to do was leave, and his master couldn't do a thing. quote: do you think i'd want to go back on the president that way? no, sir, you don't know me. i'd sooner die than run off. the president happened to be near and heard this. he was greatly pleased x the next day surprised his faithful valet by speaking of it and told him whenever he wanted his freedom, he could have it. but polk won't hear of it and stayed with the president for the president's byer life. quote, he was always a trusted and faithful servant, said zaire what polk. so as you can see, this were at
least one person who was a white house slave and wouldn't take freedom even when it was offered to them at least twice. but the majority of these men and women didn't want to be there. this was their life. this is what life handed them. and they made the best they could out of the life they had. part of the reason why i got into this project is because these people's lives were truly invisible. we didn't know anything about them. we didn't know where they came from. we didn't know where they went after they finished their time at the white house with the president. most of the presidents told their slaves that they would be freed after the presidents died. and many of them kept those
promises. some did not. some presidents even said that we'll free you after i die or after my wife dies. now, while that may seem to be altruistic on the part of the president, many of the first ladies who outlive ared their husbands had a little problem here. the people who were cooking their food, living in their house, who they depended on for their day-to-day lives, all they had too between them and freedos one person's life. so quite a few first ladies freed the, freed their household slaves before they died, and a couple of them even mentioned it in their letters that they thought it was prudent not to quite wait to long.
[laughter] to keep, to free their slaves. now, i've had a couple of people ask me since the book's been published why, why is the book called "the invisible"? part of the reason why i'm doing this is that a lot of these stories were not readily available. because these people were enslaved, their lives were literally invisible. to find their stories, we had to go back and look in ledgers. we had to go back and read between the lines of the presidential memoirs, read between the lines of presidential letters to try to piece together some of these stories to give some of these
people their names and their dignity back. a lot of the work is here. but one of the things i continually say this is still just the first step. because despite this being history, we're still finding out new things every day. i actually had someone e-mail me just -- what's the date? two days ago with a painting she thought she found that could be our first time finding a true painting of hercules, that she found when she was in italy. but we're still find out new things every day. and so by collecting these stories, by talking about these people we're giving these men and women, these slaves who
lived inside the white house, a little bit back of what was taken from them. we're giving them a little bit of their history back. we're giving them a little bit of their life book. we're believe -- life back. we're giving them a little bit of their dignity back. and hopefully, the more we talk about this, the more people read this, this will be a new chapter in our country's history. that when we look and we talk about the white house, we don't see just the president, we don't see just the first lady, we don't see just the first family, but we see the people who made the white house work in the earliest days of this country. thank you. [applause] >> i'll be walking around with a microphone. if you have a question, just
raise your happened, and i'll be right there -- raise your hand, and i'll be right there. >> hi. i find this really fascinating. i have two questions. one, it's not clear from your presentation when slaves started at the white house. your reference to washington was that it was new york and pennsylvania, and hercules wasn't in the white house yet, so it's unclear to me did it start with washington or adams or jefferson or when? and then the second question is who owned the slaves? was this owned by the united states government? >> good questions, good questions. george washington, as i said earlier, lived in executive mansions in both new york and philadelphia. now, the only two of the first presidents to not own slaves were john adams and his son,
john quincy adams. they were quakers. so is because of their religion, they didn't believe in slavery at that time. so the first slaves to live inside the white house belonged to thomas jefferson. john adams moved into the white house first, but thomas jeff actually was the president who -- jefferson was the president who started the tradition of white house slaves. and believe me, john adams complained bitterly about the fact that the white house -- which, frankly, is a southern mansion by the way -- was a huge place, but at that point congress didn't provide funding for a white house staff. so up like george washington -- unlike george washington who was able to bring in slaves from mount vernon, john adams had to go out and hire people to work in the white house as domestic taffe. so he was spending money out of his own pocket for waiters, for
maids, for cooks for the white house. so when thomas jefferson moves in, he basically fired all of those workers that john adams has brought in to work in the white house and brings in his own slaves. because for him it's cheaper. it's cheaper to bring in someone you don't have to pay than it is to go out and hire someone. that's a thread i found throughout the book looking at almost all the presidents. many of them, frankly, most of them at some point in their life said slavery is morally wrong. they knew it was wrong. thomas jefferson himself defended and worked against the idea of permanent slavery in virginia. before he started buying slaves.
but the slaves worked the farm. the slaves were free labor for their farms. the only way they could stay rich, frankly, was to keep slaves. this is why many -- this is why i think many of them wanted to free their slaves after they died, because then they wouldn't need the money anymore. yeah, sure, you can be free now that i don't need you anymore. but most of the presidents knew during their lifetimes that slavery was wrong. james madison knew it. pretty much all of the signers of the declaration of independence pretty much knew that slavery was wrong. but to stay part of the wealthier class, they decided that they would rather be a slave owner than not if it meant the difference between being rich and being poor. >> next question. >> oh, i'm sorry. and the slaves were actually owned by the presidents
personally. now, as far as we can tell so far only a couple of presidents bought slaves while living in the white house. andrew jackson actually purchased slaves with his money while working in the white house. another president who did as well was james polk. but james polk did it secretly. by the time polk becomes president, the civil war's getting closer, and the country's being divided over the idea of slavery. so polk didn't want people to know he was buying slaves. so he would pay a middleman to go down south, buy a slave and then transfer the slave into polk's custody. and polk made sure that he never used any of his money that he got as president to buy the slav. he used only his personal money thinking that if the people found out, they would see a
difference between polk the person buying slaves and polk the president buying slaves. people, by the way, never found out. but the slaves were all personally owned by the president. as far as we can tell, now, i dealt with part of this in my first book, "black men built the capitol." as far as we can tell so far, the u.s. government itself never owned slaves. the presidents personally did. >> my name's deborah, i work with a group called teaching for change. we should clarify the government profited off people who were enslaved because the government made taxes -- >> of course. >> okay. so i just wanted to mention. a few things, i'm glad you mentioned about hercules and the book. the book was actually published, so just a quick note that people here would be interested in knowing scholastic released the cook, "a birthday cake for george washington," on january
5th. it had already received negative reviews, but scholastic defended it to the hilt. it was not until a widespread protest was launched by early childhood educators, black lives matter movement activists, librarians that after four days they recalled it, and they're now -- people will probably see the discussion still going on. ron charles just reported on it in the post, the coelastic version. -- scholastic version. they're now saying they didn't recall it because of the protest or because of the critique, they recalled it because of their own high standards which is -- [laughter] yeah. and the reason it's important to mention to folks here there's a crisis in children's book publishing. fewer than 10% of children's books published are by or about people of color.
so the fact that this was successful is a big deal, and for scholastic to make that history invisible, you know, just hike your book title, they're making the history from a week ago invisible let alone the history from years ago. >> great book. i loved it. it's a really good book. he's actually one of the people i wanted to meet and haven't had a chance to. there have been some great books p written about the white house. ed hoslings did a lot of good work finding, frankly, some receipts from the slaves who actually built the capitol. but i actually feel sort of unfair to name the few books
that i've read dealing with this type of subject because there's been so many people who have worked on so many different parts of this history. i actually did get to meet will haygood at college maybe about two or three months ago back in the summertime. so it's great now to see a lot of attention being brought to these time periods inside the white house. i'm actually, i was just reading today about the movie coming out, the birth of the nation. it's going to be a great movie. like i say, i'm so glad to see that these stories are now being told. i actually got asked by an interviewer the other day that when i talk about these stories, he said, the interviewer said to me it sounds like you're
smiling, you're happy. you're talking about all of these stories of slaves, but people like randall robinson, when they talk about slaves, they're angry. they're mad. but you're smiling, you're happy. why? well, and my answer to that is i'm happy because these stories are finally being told. yeah, i'm mad at the situation that these people had to live through, but you don't know how many people have worked, how hard so many people have worked to get these stories out. i'm smiling and i'm excited, smiling and excitemented because i'm getting to tell the stories i wanted to read my entire life. i'm excited because these are the type of stories that people not only want to read, but they should read. i'm not going to sit here and be mad while i'm telling a story i want people to hear. [laughter]
>> jesse, thank you so much for your work. st so important -- it's so important. i wanted to know about your process and how you decided when you had enough material to start riding. did you research right? was it in parallel? sequentially? just speak about your process, please. >> my training is as a journalist, so -- and i've been a journalist with the associated press now for almost 24 years. so i started out my research as i would researching any story i was writing for ap. i started out by calling the people i thought knew the most and talking to them. one of the things that i had to
learn, and for me this was the biggest difference between being a journalist and an author, was that as a journalist i can write a story in my head because i'm usually writing around 700, 800 words. i can keep that organized. i know where i'm going from beginning to end. but as an author, i had to relearn how to outline. i wasted, frankly, about six months before i realized that i had to sit down and plan out where i wanted to go. and it's really sort of i was going to say funny, but it's sort of sad. my mother is an english teacher. she taught me seventh and eighth grade english back in mississippi, and one of the things she taught us was outlining. so i remember the phone call i made back home, and i said, you know, mom? remember what you said to me about outlining when i was in
the eighth grade? can you repeat that to me again? [laughter] she just laughed. but one of the first things i did was, frankly, just making a time line. this is what i want to say, this is where it goes and then research, research, research. i spent about a year just doing nothing but research. frankly, my first year at college -- the beginning of all of this was with my thesis. and with my thesis advisers at golfer. and i spent that first year just researching. and this involved spending hours and hours at the national archives, hours and hours in the library of congress, phone calls between me and historians at monticello, at sherwood forest, at the hermitage at mount vernon. and i have to say here that
people will help you even when you don't expect it. i truly didn't expect researchers at presidential plantations to want to talk about slavery, to want to rehash what for them had to be an uncomfortable part of their president's history. but everywhere i turned no matter what question i asked, i always 230u7d that people were willing to help. so after the research came the -- getting the research done came the writing. and, frankly, for me the writing part was the most difficult because as a journalist i'm so used to just dealing with straight facts, this is what happened. today this is what happened.
but this story deserved more than just a factual retelling. so i had to create a narrative for each slave and then figure out how all these stories fit together into a whole. and that, that's where, that's where i will admit i had the most help and the greatest help from my mentors at gaver college. they were fabulous x they helped me piece this together into, i hope, an acceptable whole. now, somewhere in there was your answer. it's sort of a scatter shot. but, frankly, if i had to give anybody advice and, frankly, this was advice that was begin to me by another friend of mine who's also an author, your book is only as good as your outline. because if you don't know where you're going, i promise you in a project that's 80, 90,000 words, if you don't know where you're going by the first hundred
words, you're already lost. work on your outline just as hard as you work on the book, and you'll be fine. >> we have time for two more questions. >> hi. so i was wondering what the most significant research difficulties were that you faced writing about people who, by and large, didn't leave written records, and also what were the largest questions that you had that were unanswered after finishing the book? >> one of the biggest challenges of doing a project like this is that it's going to be difficult to find out the information that you want. when i originally proposed doing this project, i was hoping to find a family who worked in the white house as slaves, hopefully
then continued the tradition as freed men, worked in the white house as butler, as a butler, found a family who bridges both of those time periods. i couldn't find that. what i ended up doing was looking at each president and finding, trying to find someone who was enslaved by that president who represented the time period and what i wanted to say. and it's very difficult. i will admit it's difficult because quite a few of the people i feature in the book didn't write anything about themselves during their lifetime. now, there were some like paul jennings who was a slave of james madison. he actually wrote the first tell-all book about life in the white house. so i actually had a book to look at at that point.
and judge who was famous for escaping washington, she was actually interviewed by newspapers later on in her life. so that gave me a little bit to work with. but a lot of what i had to work with were just lines on a ledger or mentions in a presidential letter to someone. and piecing those beeses and pits -- pieces and bits together wasn't easy, frankly, and it took a long time. but hopefully, if you can put little pieces of story, little pieces of stories together, you get to a, you get to a larger, a larger cohesive narrative which is what i, hopefully, have done here. now, your second question is what's the biggest unanswered question i had at the end of this project? do i remember that right? if i had my way, i wish i would
have been able to find more about the, their relatives and the people who were related to these slaves i featured in the stories now. i wish i could find the fossettes' children and grandchild and great grandchildren now. finish i wish -- the reason why i say the fossettes, because joseph fossett was the first slave who had escaped and was caught on white house grounds. he escaped monticello and ran to the white house because thomas jefferson was using his wife as a cook, and he had gotten word that she was sick, so he ran away from monticello to get to the white house to see about his wife, and he was captured at the white house and sent back to monticello. i wish i had, i wish i could
connect a lot of these stories to people, their people in the families today. that's one of the things i wasn't able to do. because a lot of the records of where these slaves went after their presidents who owned them died, it's very hard to trace them through to today. some of them we can. i think there's at least, there's been at least one slave family, one family of descendants of a slave who have been invited back to the white house. i believe they're paul jennings' people that have been invited back to the white house. but they're the only family of a slave that's actually been able to set foot back in the place where their ancestor was end slaved. so -- enslaved. so i really wish i could find more of the people who were related to the people i feature
in this book. that's one of the things i wish i'd had the time and the resources to do. >> last question. >> hi, thank you. i just wanted to clarify. when you said the federal government didn't own any slaves, was that just in the white house, or, like, were there any slaves in congress? you said they were building the capitol. were those not federal slaves? >> no, actually, they weren't. they were being rented by the federal government. the federal government didn't actually buy any slaves at all. now, the, with the construction of the white house as well as the capitol, frankly, if you think back during that time period, washington, d.c. was basically a swamp. and no workers wanted to come live in a swamp. so what the federal government did is they rented out slaves from slave owners in virginia and maryland, and they brought them here to work on the white
house and the capitol. but the federal government never actually purchased them. they only represented them for that time period -- rented them for that time period. so the federal government was responsible for, basically, feeding them and giving them a blanket. and the work that that the slaves did, all the money went to the slave other than. but they weren't, they never were actual property of the federal government at that time. >> a round of applause, please. [applause] we're entering the signing portion of our evening. i hope that i would very much want to find out a lot more about this history, encourage you to do the same. we'll have the signing right
over here. purchase the book up front with my friends at the bookstore. thank you so much for coming out. have a good night. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> this is booktv on c-span2, television for serious readers. here's our prime time lineup. tonight starting at 6:30, nick adams shares his opinions on political correctness. then at 7:30 the new yorker's jane mayer reports on the influence of big money in politics. ms. mayer will join us live next weekend to discuss all of her books and take your questions on "in depth."
prime time continues at 9 p.m. with michael hayden, the former nsa and cia director. he sits down with former director james woolsey to discuss national security on week the's -- booktv's "after words" program. and that's followed at ten with a panel on the history of the black power movement. that all happens tonight on c-span2's booktv. >> every day books are reviewed by publications throughout the country. here's a look at some recently-reviewed titles premiering this weekend on booktv. the latest book by the new yorker's jane mayer, "dark money," about the hidden intersection of money and politics, was reviewed in the washington post by tom hamburger. he writes:
>> jane mayer will be live on booktv's "in depth" taking your questions about "dark money" and her other books next sunday at noon eastern. in the "usa today," scruggs looks at the invisibles by associated press reporter jesse holland. commenting on the book, ms. scruggs notes: >> blackhawk down author considered michael hayden's book "playing to the edge "for "the new york times."
mr. bowden writes: >> michaelhayden discusses "playine edge" this week on "after words." here's a preview of his conversation with former cia director james wooly. >> iran was the second most-discussed topic in the oval office, right? terrorism and iran. you'd talk about other stuff, but we didn't talk about any of them actually that any of them was number three. it was terrorism and then it was iran. president bush, he used to ask me two kinds of questions on iran. always kind of the straightforward -- how much uranium they got there, hayden?
and then the other question he gave me, i relate an incident in the chapter, how do these guys make decision, mike? i always wanted the nuclear questions. >> right, exactly. >> because this is an incredibly opaque society, and it was very difficult for us to penetrate. >> watch for these programs and more this weekend on booktv. >> what we have to discuss tonight is shadow work, and it is as the slide up here mentions, a form of what i call middle class serfdom. take my friend beth all dressed up and pumping gas into the or car. and when i asked, in other words, how do these people turn into these people, right? and the idea dawned on me about four years ago. i was at the supermarket one night with my groceries waiting to check them out, and i looked
over about 20 feet, and i saw a lawyer i knew slightly. she could have been. and i knew it was someone who was a senior partner in a downtown firm. she had to be making well into the six figures, probably at least $300,000 a year. and i saw her there scanning and bagging groceries. of course, they were her own groceries. but i thought, she's doing an entry-level job that usually pays minimum wage, but she's not getting minimum wage, she's getting nothing. she's getting exactly zero. and i said, what's going on here? this is sort of interesting. and i began to realize, i thought about it, that there are other places in this world where we are, as consumers, doing work for nothing. it used to be done by somebody who got a paycheck like pumping our own gas or like checking ourselves in at the airport, possibly doing our own travel
arrangements in the first place as this guy is doing with the aid of web sites like kayak or expedia that used to be a travel agent's job or wandering the aisles of big box stores becoming our own sales people because there really aren't too many sales people to be found in these places. you are kind of on your own. maybe you and your smartphone will do the research and do whatever you need to do to learn what has to be learned to buy what you're looking for. ..