Slaves and Presidents at the White HouseConstruction on the President's House began in 1792 in Washington, DC, a new capital situated in a sparsely settled region far from a major population center. Eleven U.S. presidents were slaveholders. Seven of those owned slaves while living at the White House: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, John Tyler, James K. Polk, and Zachary Taylor.
Image: Black cook working in the White House kitchen
Damp and moldy, the ground floor was a difficult place for the White House staff to work and live.
Photograph by Frances Benjamin
Slave Quarters at the White House
Not only did enslaved men and women work in the White House, but they also lived there; most often in rooms in the basement. Open at ground level on the south, the basement had windows on the north facing an area that was entirely hidden from view except from the kitchen. This vaulted corridor once accessed a forty-foot kitchen with large fireplaces at each end, a family kitchen, an oval servants hall, the steward's quarters, and the servants' bedrooms.