Reporter Julie Weil explains the messiness and complexity of slavery in American history.

Slavery is an integral part of the American story, and while slavery does not exist today, its history has shaped American institutions, government structures – even its culture, religions and music. On Monday, a new article by The Washington Post uncovered a disturbing fact that further elucidates this idea: That more than 1,700 congressmen once enslaved Black people. The article is meant to serve as an archive for researchers, historians and journalists to better educate the American public about the role of slavery in the U.S., according to the report’s authors.

These people have very complicated stories … people who had a lot of antislavery activities in their political careers even as they were keeping people in slavery in their own homes.” — Julie Z. Weil, Washington Post reporter


Listen: How the legacy of slavery has embedded itself in American institutions and culture.

 


Guest

Julie Z. Weil is a reporter with the Washington Post and one of the authors who contributed to the new investigation. Weil says readers are sending her emails about more documents related to American representatives who owned slaves. She also notes that those representatives were part of many different political parties and geographically, many different places, including northern and western states. Weil speaks of George Wallace Jones, a representative from Michigan and Wisconsin. “He was a slaveholder,” she says. “He was actually a college buddy with Jefferson Davis.”

Weil says many representatives who were publicly against slavery owned slaves themselves. “These people have very complicated stories … people who had a lot of antislavery activities in their political careers even as they were keeping people in slavery in their own homes,” she says.

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