Enslaved African Americans, leased out by their slave owners, mined sandstone from local quarries and built the United States Capitol, the White House, and the Smithsonian Castle. Congress, the institution that guarded the peoples’ freedom, held sessions in a building constructed by forced labor, and the legislators would have witnessed lines of shackled slaves marching by daily en route to the Deep South. The block was quarried near Aquia Creek, Virginia, by free and enslaved workers and used in the construction of the Capitol building in 1824.
Source: Nancy Bercaw, Curator, Slavery and Freedom
A rectangular block of sandstone. One short side of the block has a smooth, finished surface. The other five sides are rough-hewn and pitted, showing evidence of quarry tool markings, softened by weathering. One of the long sides has mechanical tool markings across the surface, forming a cross-hatch pattern. The block predominantly is beige, with reddish-brown veins of color running lengthwise. The smooth side shows most clearly the variegation of reddish-brown strata. There is a loss at the lower-left corner of the smooth side.