It’s African American History Month, and we’ve got all kinds of African-American history here at The Catholic University of America.
In fact, you’re standing on it. The original 65 acres purchased by the U.S. Catholic Bishops to found the University is rife with African American history. It didn’t start out that way. Initially, the first house built on the current CUA campus was built by Samuel Harrison Smith and Margaret Bayard Smith. The Smiths were invited to settle in the young capital city in 1803 by President Thomas Jefferson and found the District’s first newspaper. Later, the house passed on to James Middleton and his son Erasmus Middleton. The Middleton family held it as an estate run by enslaved people, until the Emancipation Act of 1862 (the first emancipation act in the nation, by the way) liberated the enslaved of Washington, D.C. The house eventually became part of the CUA campus and was demolished in 1970.
During the Civil War, Fort Slemmer was established on the perimeter of campus. One of 68 fortifications protecting the city during the war, the fort never saw action, but it did play its part in the Civil War. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: African American History? You’re Standing On It”