Little Known Black History Fact: Horace King

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  • Horace King was an Alabama slave and architect who built the biggest American bridges in the mid 1800’s. His work is still present in the amazing spiraling staircases of the Alabama State Capital. King built a number of massive bridges crossing the Chattahoochee River Valley.

    King was African & Native American. He was purchased by construction company owner, John Godwin, and taken to north Alabama. King worked his first construction project in 1824, which was the first bridge to connect Georgia and Alabama. He was made superintendent at Godwin’s company in 1840. Together, King and Godwin constructed major bridges in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi.

    In 1849, three years after he had bought his freedom, King was asked to reconstruct the Alabama State Capital building that burned down. In addition to the framework, King constructed the double spiraling staircases, making them appear to float without support.

    As a slave in the South, it was natural that King would want an end to slavery. But with a well-admired skill, the Confederacy forced him to build blocks in the River to prevent a naval attack by Union forces. He was also asked to construct naval vessels for the Confederacy. However, much of King’s work was destroyed in the war.

    Hoping to make a change, King turned his head to politics where he served as a representative in the Alabama House of Representatives. His proposed Freedmen’s colony was unsuccessful and any bill he tried to present was shot down. The only bill that passed was in favor of alcohol prohibition in 1871.

    King lived out his days building cotton mills and warehouses in the South. He died in 1858 and his children took over his business.
     

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