How the Yellow House Helped Make Washington, D.C., a Slavery Capital

The Notorious Jail Lent Institutional Support to Slavery Throughout the South

Washington, D.C., was a capital not just of the United States, but of slavery, serving as a major depot in the domestic slave trade. In the District, enslaved men, women, and children from homes and families in the Chesapeake were held and then forcibly expelled to the cotton frontier of the Deep South, as well as to Louisiana’s sugar plantations.

Slave dealers bought enslaved individuals whom owners deemed surplus and warehoused them at pens in the District of Columbia until they had assembled a full shipment for removal southward. Half a …

A Poem That Would Not Let Me Go | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

A Poem That Would Not Let Me Go

When I Found Multiple Truths in the Work of 18th-Century Poet Phillis Wheatley, She Became Some Kind of Kin

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I do not remember how old I was when my grandmother showed me Phillis Wheatley’s poetry. Ten, maybe 11? Young enough that my hands were open to everything she put …

The 60,000-Strong Jamaican Uprising That Changed the Very Nature of Revolt | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

The Uprising of 60,000 Jamaicans That Changed the Very Nature of Revolt

Just Months After the Groundbreaking 1831 Rebellion, the British Empire Abolished Slavery

In the summer of 1831, a select group of enslaved people in northwest Jamaica began murmuring to each other about “the business.”

To mention the fledgling enterprise in the presence …

The ‘Ferociously Contested’ Story of How Blackness Became a Legal Identity | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

The ‘Ferociously Contested’ Story of How Blackness Became a Legal Identity

In Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana, Colonial Laws Defining ‘Freedom’ Still Affected the Status of Citizens Centuries Later

How did Africans become “blacks” in the Americas?

Those who were forced into the ships of the infamous slave trade probably thought of themselves using ethnic and territorial terms that …

The Heartbreaking Love Letters That Spurred an Ohio Blacksmith to Join John Brown’s Raid | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

The Heartbreaking Love Letters That Spurred an Ohio Blacksmith to Join John Brown’s Raid

Dangerfield Newby’s Enslaved Wife Wrote Increasingly Desperate Missives That Inspired Her Husband to Join the Abolitionist Rebellion

Every October 16 marks the anniversary of John Brown’s historic raid on Harpers Ferry in West Virginia in 1859. Accompanied by 18 supporters, Brown, a radical abolitionist, hoped to …