Class Year


Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Spring 2020

Department 1



In the early nineteenth century, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson built a classically inspired capital designed to legitimize American republican ideals. White interpretations of the architecture gradually aligned more with the founders’ intentions, especially following its reconstruction after the 1814 conflagration. Enslaved and free black observers recognized their exclusion from the message of freedom and equality. Rather than finding their identity through federal buildings, they established their communities within churches, houses, and businesses owned by black people. The varied reactions to Washington’s and Jefferson’s designs demonstrated how the aesthetic idealization of republicanism revealed incongruities in the new capital.


Written for History 343: The Early Republic.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.