TEACHER RESOURCES

The resources on this page have been selected to support teacher and student needs. For other related teacher and student tips and tools—look for the pencil symbol throughout the Mount Vernon website.

In the year of George Washington’s death, Mount Vernon was home to over 300 individuals, most of whom were enslaved at the time. Many of the challenges in teaching about slavery to students today can be addressed by introducing diverse source material. The website includes rich primary sources from the lives of people who were enslaved at Mount Vernon as well as Washington’s changing opinions about slavery overtime. Support materials are designed to contextualize the information in the 18th century and suggest connections to contemporary relevance.

PRIMARY SOURCES

George Washington's Last Will and Testament, July 9, 1799

In his will, written several months before his death, George Washington stipulated that the 123 enslaved individuals he owned at Mount Vernon be emancipated upon the death of his wife Martha. In accordance with Virginia law, Washington stipulated in his will that the elderly and sickly amongst those he emancipated be supported by his estate for the remainder of their lives.

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George Washington's List of Enslaved People, 1799

This detailed eight page list of enslaved workers at George Washington's five farms was created in June 1799. The list is broken down into enslaved workers owned by George Washington, dower slaves owned by Martha Washington, and enslaved individuals rented from Mrs. Penelope French. 

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Maryland Gazette Runaway Slave Advertisement, August 20, 1761

George Washington put this advertisement in the Maryland Gazette in August 1761 after four enslaved men ran away from his farm at Dogue Run. The ad provides details about each man, providing insights about their appearance and demeanor that otherwise may have been lost to history.

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French’s Slave Census, July 1799

This detailed census of enslaved workers hired out by George Washington from Mrs. Penelope French was compiled in July 1799, just five months before Washington's death. By 1799, George Washington was making strategic changes to his Mount Vernon estate and no longer needed the services of Mrs. French's slaves which he had been renting since 1786. 

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Additional Primary Sources Related to Slavery

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Secondary Sources

Learn more about Washington and slavery.

ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS
  • What role did the institution of slavery play in the founding of our nation?

  • How were slaves’ family and personal lives different than those of other Americans?

  • What factors did George Washington consider in his decision to keep or free enslaved individuals at Mount Vernon?

  • What events and circumstances informed the choices enslaved individuals made each day?

  • How can we learn about the individuals who did not leave a written record?
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