The monument was built in 1832 as a tribute to the memory and respect of the first US president, George Washington, on his anniversary. Today many historians are trying to answer the question: was the Washington Monument built by slaves? There is no straightforward answer to this question, and it is unlikely that it will ever appear. Slaves may indeed have been involved to some extent in the construction process, but they were unlikely to have carried out severe and vital work.


The Washington Monument’s history starts in 1783 when the Continental Congress decided that an equestrian monument should be erected in honor of the great general who had just led his army of volunteers to victory in the War of Independence. But the new country had different tasks and limited resources, and by the time Washington died in 1799, no monument to the most revered man in America had ever been erected. This prompted Congress to restart the project, and over the next three decades, various plans to build a kind of mausoleum in the Capitol building itself were discussed. All those plans failed when the Washington family refused to move his remains from his estate in Mount Vernon, Virginia.

In 1832, when the country celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of George Washington, the citizens founded an organization to build the monument. Funding was provided by money raised by the charity from the people. Any American who wanted to help in any way possible could donate just one dollar. By the mid-30s of the 19th century, the activists of the society had collected 28 thousand dollars and announced a competition for the best project of the monument to the national hero. The contest ended in 1836, and its winner was the architect Robert Mills, whose project was a giant obelisk as a Washington Monument shape with a memorial of the President on top. According to the architect’s idea, the monument should have narrowed to the top. Around the pillar, there would have been an arcade with thirty figures of the heroes of the American Revolution. The original plan proposed by the architect Robert Mills was too expensive, so the construction of the Washington column was simplified to the level of the monument in its present form.

The fact that the Washington monument built by slaves has not been proven. It is possible to carry out indirect communication, showing that once the large sponsors several times helped the project with money, and they included powerful tycoons from the south, whose fortunes were earned, including thanks to slaves, then partly slave labor took place. The materials for the monument were extracted from three quarries in the Northern United States states of Maryland and Massachusetts. The presence of slaves, who built washington monument, in them at the time is also not proven. However, it is possible that some quarries did have a slave force, although, given the status of the site under construction, hardly slaves were in the majority among workers. The author of Washington’s Monument: And the Fascinating History of the Obelisk John Steele Gordon, raises doubts about whether slave labor was used to build the monument. Gordon believes that the stone from which the peak was made was processed too professionally to be used by low-skilled slaves. Thus, although the monument was erected in the mid-19th century, several decades before the official abolition of slavery, there is no credible evidence that the statue was built solely by African-American slaves.