On the first night of the Democratic National Convention, First Lady Michelle Obama gave a powerful speech that (figuratively) brought the crowd to its knees. FLOTUS vouched for Hillary Clinton as the right leader for America's future, using her own experience as a mother to make her case.
"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," Obama said. "And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States."
Obama received a standing ovation for her rousing speech, and many seemed particularly affected by her line about the White House being built by slaves.
But not everyone reacted well to it. Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly, renowned for making controversial statements, was so moved by that mention of slavery in Obama's speech that he went through great pains to do some research on it.
What O'Reilly found was, according to him, not so bad. He reasoned:
Slaves that worked there were well-fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government, which stopped hiring slave labor in 1802. However, the feds did not forbid subcontractors from using slave labor. So, Michelle Obama is essentially correct in citing slaves as builders of the White House, but there were others working as well. Got it all? There will be a quiz.
(The Atlantic reported that then-First Lady Abigail Adams, whose observations of those building the White House, actually revealed otherwise, describing the slaves as "destitute" and "half-fed.")
O'Reilly's response earned plenty of backlash.
But the strongest rebuke came from drummer and producer Questlove, who posted this photo on Instagram:
The jarring image was accompanied by this caption:
Slavery was inhumane. Slavery was sadistic. Slavery was uncomfortable. Slavery was unjust. Slavery was a nightmare. Slavery was a despicable act. Slavery is the pebble whose ripple in the river still resonates on and on and on and on. I'd like to think most of you have common sense. But there is nothing more dangerous than a man in a suit pretending to be a journalist giving revisionist history on the ugliness that was slavery. What's so fun and lighthearted about being shackled? being separated from your loved ones? Being molested and raped HOURLY, being branded with hot iron? being property? being castrated? being flogged? being malnourished? living in high stress conditions? forced to lay in your own feces? being sold in a heartbeat? suppressing ANY emotion (with the surprising exception of singing it was illegal ---lashes or death--to read, write, "talk back" or "sass", cry (how many of you heard "you better NOT cry before I give you something to cry about!"), get angry, or even more surprising LAUGHING (a plantation barrel of water was always in proximity to dunk ones head in so one could express emotions and suppress the sound as to not alert your overseer of your "sassing"---deep history I just learned about laughing and the slave period---the first recorded song "The Laughing Song" was the defiant "F%^k Tha Police" of its day (also where the term "Barrel Of Laughs" gets its origin)---I'm getting beside the point. I dunno if that man's (never say his name) point is to troll at any cost whatsoever but his entire existence is a 5 steps backwards for any progress made in humanity. My dismay is the percentage of people who get their news from memes/headlines/& sources to whom they have 0 clue is feeding them false information. Human Trafficking in any form from today's underage prostitution, to the private Prison System we exercise here in the US, to the Holocaust to 500 years of Slavery--and all other examples I've not mentioned is INHUMANE & Evil. ---watch where you get your information from and the company you keep people.
And Questlove wasn't the only celebrity responding to people who took issue with Obama citing slavery in her address.
Kelly Clarkson, who tweeted effusive praise of Obama's speech, encountered a follower who wrote, "I'm not sure I liked the part where she said the White House was built by slaves," in a now-deleted tweet.