The majority of enslaved people at Mount Vernon were assigned to agricultural work on the plantation’s four outlying farms.
Under the supervision of overseers, field hands toiled from sunrise to sunset, which could mean 14-hour days in the summer. They planted and harvested Mount Vernon’s major cash crops—first tobacco and later wheat—as well as corn, vegetables, and grasses. Most field workers were women, as men were more likely to be trained in a trade.
Washington was a strict taskmaster to all of his workers, both hired and enslaved. He expected laborers to share his enthusiasm for the plantation’s success and work diligently to execute his plans, though they did not stand to benefit from his innovations.
At Dogue run—The Women began to hoe the Swamp they had grubbed in order to prepare it for Sowing in the Spring with grain and grass Seeds.
-GEORGE WASHINGTON’S DIARY, JANUARY 3, 1788