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First lady Abigail Adams watched ‘half fed’ slaves build White House

White House 1846 - Library of Congress

White House 1846 – Library of Congress

The most remarked upon portion of Michelle Obama’s DNC speech was this:

“I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.”

While many found this candor joyous, some factions took umbrage, most notably Fox News host Bill O’Reilly who said during his Tip of the Day segment:

“Slaves that worked there were well-fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government.”


Abigail Adams - Library of Congress

Abigail Adams – Library of Congress

However, first lady Abigail Adams, who occupied the White House while slaves were building it recorded her observations in a letter to her husband’s cousin, Cotton Tufts:

“The effects of Slavery are visible every where; and I have amused myself from day to day in looking at the labour of 12 negroes from my window, who are employd with four small Horse Carts to remove some dirt in front of the house…it is true Republicanism that drive the Slaves half fed, and destitute of cloathing…whilst the owner waches about Idle…”

So, O’Reilly stands corrected.



  1. The Truth on July 28, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    I’m sorry…I disagree, Bill O’ Reilly wasn’t right, he said the slaves were well fed and Lady Abigail said the slaves were half fed 2 different things. Well fed mean the slaves had plenty, half fed mean they weren’t getting enough to eat. Destitute: utterly lacking, of Clothing. See, you can run that on someone who don’t know any better…read and comprehend what Lady Abigail is really saying! The slaves were not treated as Bill O’Reilly said, trying to justify the wrong that was done! MY PEOPLE BUILD THE WHITE HOUSE AND THIS COUNTRY!!

    • Bonnie on August 1, 2016 at 12:29 pm

      The last line says “So, O’Reilly stands corrected”. So that’s saying he wasn’t correct.

      • The Truth on August 1, 2016 at 1:49 pm

        You’re right…my bad. ;))