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TO FEB. 28
In 1791, Washington city planner Pierre L’Enfant selected Jenkins’ Hill as the site for the new, permanent Capitol building. He called the vista “a pedestal waiting for a monument.” Too bad the skilled workers that were needed from Europe were not nearly as ready to come to the federal city as the building commissioners expected. So they turned to the only ready supply of labor in the sparsely populated area: the slaves of Maryland and Virginia. Men were leased from their masters and used primarily as unskilled laborers. But some became trained in stonemasonry, bricklaying, and carpentry. They lived in shacks at the building sites, receiving medical care, food, and sometimes even direct-incentive pay for their work. Their wagesNegro Dick, who worked at the Capitol, was worth $5 a monthwere paid directly to their masters. The National Archives will display a 1795 “Carpenter’s Roll” and a promissory note from the Washington commissioners to Jasper Jackson for the hire of his slave. On view from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., daily, to Wednesday, Feb. 28, at the National Archives, 700 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Free. (202) 501-5000. (Janet Hopf)