Vice President, Media & Communications
Poet Nikki Giovanni, Howard University and Virginia State University Choirs to Perform
MOUNT VERNON, Va. – George Washington’s Mount Vernon joins Black Women United for Action in remembering the slaves who lived at Mount Vernon with a program and wreathlaying ceremony at the Slave Memorial on Saturday, October 12 at 11:00 a.m. This public event features dramatic readings, performances, and uplifting music in recognition of the slaves’ sacrifices and contributions to the early formation of this nation. Visitors are invited to place a boxwood sprig on the Slave Memorial’s stone steps emblazoned with “Faith, Hope, Love.” Performances by poet Nikki Giovanni, Howard University and Virginia State University Choirs will take place during the ceremony.
This event is included in Estate admission: adults, $17; children ages 6-11, $8; and children under 5 are admitted free. Please visit MountVernon.org for more information. For more information on Black Women United for Action, please visit BWUFA.org.
The Slave Memorial at Mount Vernon was designed by students attending the architectural school at Howard University. It was dedicated and opened to the public on September 21, 1983. A gray, truncated, granite column which represents “life unfinished” is the center of three concentric brick circles. The three steps leading up to the column are inscribed, respectively, “Faith,” “Hope” and “Love” – the virtues that sustained those living in bondage.
The memorial marks the site where both slaves and “free blacks” were buried in the 18th and 19th centuries, usually without identifying markers. Among those thought to be buried at the site are William Lee, George Washington’s personal servant during the Revolutionary War, and West Ford, who worked as a manager for the Washington family after the General’s death in 1799. Both Lee and Ford were “free blacks” at the time of their deaths.
Today, Mount Vernon interprets slavery through daily tours (April through October); first person characters; a reconstructed slave cabin (opened September 2007); slave quarters; and during special events and programs throughout the year.
When he was 11, Washington inherited 10 slaves from his father, and eventually owned as many as 316 during Mount Vernon’s peak of activity. Over a period of several years, Washington actually changed his mind about slavery, declaring in 1786 that he hoped a plan would be adopted by which “slavery in this country may be abolished by slow, sure and imperceptible degrees.” When Washington died in 1799, his will stated that all slaves under his ownership were to be freed. Of the
123 slaves that were freed after his death, a number of them were provided for while staying on the plantation.