In 1835, Washington, D.C. was a small but growing city of about 30,000. About 6,000 slaves lived there alongside an increasing number of freed slaves who moved there from southern states.
In his book, Snow-Storm in August, Jefferson Morley explores the tensions present in Washington over slavery that led to a now-forgotten race riot.
Morley says the issues that caused the riot are still playing out today. He told NPR's Steve Inskeep, "The political debates about free speech, about property rights, about citizenship rights, those are actually still with us. And in fact, this is really when the formative moment of American politics really comes about, and you have this dynamic that we still have with us today: the red and the blue, right? The red states are conservative; the blue states are liberal. A lot was the same."
One of the figures in the book, Francis Scott Key, is now more commonly known for writing the lyrics to "The Star Spangled Banner," but at the time he was a prominent pro-slavery district attorney who argued fiercely against abolition.
Morley joins The Daily Circuit to discuss Key, the 1835 riots and slavery during the city's formative years.