George Washington Stood Here On the Issue of Slavery
from Mount Vernon's Education Department
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May 8, 2007 · Grades 8-12 · 45 minutes
Mt. Vernon reflected George Washington’s status in society and his accomplishments in establishing and leading a new nation built on the ideals of “liberty and justice for all.” However, by the late 18th century, Mount Vernon was home to an enslaved community of over 300 men, women, and children. House servants, field hands, and craftsmen built, maintained, and supplied many of the services needed to house, clothe, and feed the equivalent of a small town.
Although born into a class and society in which slavery was rarely questioned, Washington came to believe that the institution of slavery should be abolished by legislative measure. In his will, he freed his slaves. In doing so, he was the only one of nine American presidents who owned slaves to emancipate them.
This program examines the lives of the enslaved community at Mount Vernon as well as George Washington’s changing attitudes toward slavery.
The life of slaves at Mount Vernon