To celebrate the 150th Anniversary of First Congregational United Church of Christ (FCC), we invited Dr. Renee K. Harrison to deliver the keynote address on March 7, 2015. Her presentation, Hidden Histories: Honoring Those Who Helped in Building a Just and Loving Community, challenged us to look at the history of our land and its people before the founding of the church in 1865:
“The land that the church sits on today was purchased from former slave owners, and that reality is a part of FCC’s story, of the larger human story. This story too is a part of the community memory and is interwoven in all the stories of the first building of the church. General Oliver Otis Howard spearheaded the purchase of the land and Henry Robinson Searle designed it. Often omitted and overlooked are the hands that built the church, brick by brick.”
Who were the enslaved people who lived and were forced to work on this land in the heart of our nation’s capital? Can we call their names? What can we learn of their lives? And how can we pay
homage to them today?
In this report, Slavery on G Street, W. Antonio Austin, a Ph.D. student at Howard University, has begun the work of uncovering our hidden history. We are grateful to the Ruth Shinn Memorial Fund which is dedicated to anti-racism for supporting this research. And we are grateful to Dr. Renee Harrison for her stirring reminder that, by calling the names of the enslaved people who came before us, we can find redemption and guidance for our own time.