Inaugural Media Opportunity at the National Archives
Press Release · Monday, December 8, 2008

Media Preview:  Presidential Oath of Office Display and
Photo Op: Documents on the Slaves Who Built the White House

Two rare press opportunities for historical background on Inauguration and White House history at one National Archives event.

Press Preview

What: Press preview of original documents that show President George Washington’s thoughts on the Presidential oath of office. The exhibition Taking the Oath, which will be displayed to the public January 12 through January 25, 2009, include:

  • The first printed draft of the Constitution, with notes in George Washington’s handwriting, showing an early version of the Presidential oath of office.

  • A letter from President George Washington to his Cabinet asking for their recommendations for procedures for his 1793 inauguration. These early discussions helped establish the traditions for the modern inaugural ceremony.

Who: Marvin Pinkert, Director, National Archives Experience will talk about the Oath of Office documents.

Photo Opportunity

What:  Following the press preview, a one-time opportunity to view and photograph documents showing that slave labor was used to build the White House. Documents include:

  • A 1795 “Carpenter’s Roll” for the President’s House, showing the names of slaves and the owners who were compensated for the slaves’ work. These wage rolls and other records preserved by the National Archives are evidence of the little known fact that the White House was built in large part by African American slaves.

Who:  Reginald Washington, senior archivist and African-American records specialist, will discuss the documents related to slave labor at the White House.

When:  Press Preview:  10 a.m., Wednesday, December 10, 2008.

Where:  Room 105, National Archives Building,
700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.
Please use the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance.

Please Note: No Artificial Light May Be Used.

Special Display:  Free small exhibition Taking the Oath January 12 through January 25, 2009, in the National Archives East Rotunda Gallery.

Related Public Programs:  The National Archives Experience will present films and an author lecture on Presidential transitions in celebration of the peaceful transfer of political power that occurs in our country every four years. Check the Calendar of Events for details. On January 20, beginning at 11:30 a.m., the Inaugural swearing-in ceremony and parade will be shown live in the William G. McGowan Theater.

For more information, the media may contact the National Archives Public Affairs Staff at 202-357-5300.


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