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Meet People from the Past

Bring Mount Vernon into your classroom with these videos of people from George Washington's world. See how he is viewed through the eyes of his family, friends, fellow revolutionaries and slaves.

Dr. James Craik

James Craik was one of Washington’s oldest and closest friends. They met while serving in the Virginia Regiment during the French and Indian War and later Craik served under Washington during the American Revolution. In 1781 he was appointed “chief physician and surgeon of the army” by Congress. Dr. Craik was also Washington’s personal physician and one of three doctors who attended George Washington on his deathbed in 1799.

Dr. Craik on the Revolutionary War
Dr. Craik on 18th Century Medicine
Dr. Craik on the Death of Washington

Martha Washington

Martha Dandridge Custis was a widow with two small children when she married the dashing war hero, George Washington, on January 6, 1759. For over 40 years, she was his partner who helped to build Mount Vernon into a seat of commerce and gracious hospitality and who charmed diplomats, officers, and government officials throughout the American Revolution and in her role as the President’s wife.

Martha Washington on the Revolutionary War
Martha Washington on the Presidency
Martha Washington on 18th Century Culture

Slammin' Joe

Slammin’ Joe, a dower slave belonging to the estate of Martha Washington’s first husband, worked as a ditch digger at George Washington’s Mansion House farm. Whenever possible, he spent time with his wife Pricilla (Silla), a Washington slave and field worker, and their six children who lived at the outlying Dogue Run farm.

Slammin' Joe on the Revolutionary War
Slammin' Joe on Slavery
Slammin' Joe on 18th Century Culture

Billy Lee

Billy Lee perhaps knew George Washington as well as anyone could. Purchased in 1768, Lee became Washington’s valet, or manservant. He rode by Washington’s side during all eight years of the American Revolution where he helped Washington dress, served meals, and delivering personal correspondence. Billy was also with Washington in Philadelphia during the Constitutional Convention – an enslaved man who was in the room during conversations that shaped a nation. Billy Lee was the only slave freed outright in George Washington’s will.

Billy Lee on the Revolutionary War
Billy Lee on the Death of General Washington
Billy Lee's Thoughts on Freedom


During the presidency, Hercules, who was purchased around 1786, traveled with the Washington’s to Philadelphia where he served as the cook in the President’s House. He made money by selling slops out the back door of the executive mansion and used the money to purchase fine clothes – he was known around the city as a dashing dresser. Hercules successfully ran away during Washington’s second term.

Hercules on the Death of George Washington
Hercules on Returning to Mount Vernon
Hercules's Thoughts on Freedom

The Death of George Washington

George Washington died 214 years ago this December 14th. Learn more about how he died, where he is buried, and his powerful legacy.

Learn more

Contact Education

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