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This is a hoe that was found during the archaeological excavation of the House for Families at Mount Vernon.

At the time of George Washington’s death in 1799 there were over 60 hoes in use at Mount Vernon, however, only five were recorded to be at Mansion House farm. While crops were being cultivated at Mansion House farm, it was on a much smaller scale than at the four other farms, and therefore there were fewer hoes at Mansion House.

The recovery of this hoe from the House for Families cellar allows us to think about the use of hoes by enslaved individuals to personal gardens to supplement the plantation rations issued by Washington and/or to grow products which could be sold or exchanged at local markets or shops for cash and goods. This object is useful in narrating black economic contributions to local colonial/early American markets, and speaks directly to a power to overcome the dehumanization of legalized racial slavery.

When looking at this garden hoe, consider the following questions:

  • How does the object look? Is it strong, clean, whole?
    • Why do you think the object is in its current condition?
  • How big do you think the object is?
  • Why would a garden hoe be useful? What is its function?
  • This garden hoe was found in an archeological site that examines the enslaved population. Others have been found throughout the mansion farm, indicating it was used by George Washington as well.
    • Why might the enslaved community use a tool like this? Why would Washington use it?