Enslaved Community and Slavery

Hercules

Hercules

Hercules, a member of the Mount Vernon enslaved community, became widely admired for his culinary skills?

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Austin

Austin was a dower house slave who served the Washingtons during their forty years at Mount Vernon. During?

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Ben

Ben was a widower with three small children at the time of the 1799 census.1 The three children that?

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Betty

Betty was described as being a "labouring woman" who worked at the Ferry Farm in 1786, though in 1799 she served as a cook. Betty had six children, Godfrey (b. 1774), Beck (b. 1775), Hanson (b. 1779), Lucretia (b. 1780), John (b. 1783), Billy Langston (b. 1786), and was one of the Custis estate dower slaves at Mount Vernon.

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Caesar

On April 14, 1798, plantation manager James Anderson placed a newspaper advertisement seeking an enslaved field-worker who had run away from Mount Vernon’s Union Farm.1 Anderson described Caesar, then in his late forties, as a “black negro” with “a sharp aquiline nose” who stood about five feet seven or eight inches tall and was missing some of his front teeth. The advertisement stated that Caesar usually dressed in homespun black and white, could read and write, and that he “frequently” preached to other blacks in the area. It also noted that Caesar had been seen around Alexandria and at Dr. David Stuart’s plantation, “as he has relations at both places.”2

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Caroline Branham

Caroline Branham: mother of 8, wife of Peter Hardiman, and enslaved housemaid at Mount Vernon.

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Charles

Charles was a ditcher who worked at the Mansion House and was married to Fanny.

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Charlotte

Charlotte was an enslaved seamstress at Mount Vernon who sometimes worked in the mansion. Charlotte was?

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Christopher Sheels

Christopher Sheels was born in 1776, the second child of Alce (likely pronounced “Al-sie”), a spinner at Mansion House Farm. Her other children included Anna, Judy, Viner, Ariana (who died in 1778 as an infant), Emery, Tom, Charles, and Henrietta (or Emenetta). By 1799 Alce had married a free black man named Charles.1

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Davy Gray

Davy Gray was about sixteen years old when he first came to Mount Vernon in 1759 as part of Martha Washington’s dower share of enslaved workers from the Custis estate.1 It is unknown whether anyone in his family accompanied him. The young man became a field-worker on several of Washington’s farms. As early as 1778 he was supervising other enslaved workers. By 1799 then-fifty-six-year-old Gray was overseer at Muddy Hole Farm, where he lived with his wife, Molly. At various times, Washington also assigned him to oversee the fields of River and Dogue Run Farms. Gray was described as “mulatto,” meaning he was mixed race. The origin of his last name is unknown.2

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Dick Jasper

Dick Jasper was described as a "labouring man" in the list of Mount Vernon slaves that George Washington?

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Doll

Doll was among the more than 80 enslaved people whom Martha Dandridge Custis brought to her marriage to George Washington. She worked as the Mount Vernon estate's cook for many years.

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Edmund Parker

Edmund Parker worked for the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association as the guard at Washington’s tomb. Years earlier, he had been enslaved on the estate.

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Edy Jones

Edy was mentioned in the February 1786 list of the enslaved community at Mount Vernon, compiled by George Washington. On that list, Edy is noted as being thirteen years of age and denoted as being one of the "labouring women." Edy was married to Davy, a carpenter who worked at the Mansion House Farm, and was most likely the daughter of Flora.

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Enslaved Burial Ground

One of the earliest descriptions of the enslaved burial ground at Mount Vernon came from the journal of Caroline?

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Fanny

Fanny was a "labouring woman" who worked at Ferry Farm (later known as Union Farm), and was married to?

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Frank Lee

Frank Lee arrived at Mount Vernon in 1768 after George Washington purchased him from Mary Lee, a widow who lived eighty miles away in Westmoreland County, Virginia. Washington paid £50 for the young man, about the cost of three good horses. He also bought Frank?s older brother William Lee, who would become Washington?s longtime personal valet.

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George

The week of August 12, 1798, was a sweltering one at Mount Vernon. The mercury of Washington’s thermometer flirted with ninety degrees nearly every day. Ominous clouds roiled the sky each afternoon, but fitful rain showers did little to break the heat. Despite the oppressive conditions, business continued as usual among Mount Vernon’s enslaved workers, including the three gardeners: George, Harry, and Joseph.1

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George Washington and Slavery

George Washington's views on the subject of slavery shifted over the course of his life.

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Giles

In November 1790, George Washington enclosed a thin strip of paper in a letter to his secretary Tobias Lear, who was setting up the new presidential household in Philadelphia. On it Washington wrote, “The whole length of this paper is the circumference of Giles cap measured at the bottom and on the inside . . . being the exact Band of the head. . . . To the black line drawn across the paper is the size of Paris’s cap.”1

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Greenhouse Slave Quarters

The original brick greenhouse was completed in 1787. In 1791 and 1792, one-story wings were added to?

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Hercules

Hercules, a member of the Mount Vernon enslaved community, became widely admired for his culinary skills?

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House for Families

Most of the slaves that inhabited the Mansion House Farm lived in the House for Families (built by the?

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Islam at Mount Vernon

By 1799 most of the enslaved individuals at Mount Vernon were second or third generation Americans. Some?

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Kate

On Sunday April 1, 1792, at Mount Vernon’s Muddy Hole Farm, an enslaved boy named William felt a sharp pain in his back. Two days later, the twelve-year-old fell ill, becoming “senseless and speechless.” The boy’s mother, a field-worker named Kate, spent a week caring for him in the family’s small cabin. A white doctor was sent for, but on Saturday, April 7 William died. The farm manager described the event to Washington, noting that “his death I much regreted because he was a promising Boy.”1 The sorrow of Kate—and her husband, Will, the boy’s father—was not recorded.

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Kitty

In the first years of the nineteenth century, the enslaved community of Mount Vernon was split apart not once, but twice. When he wrote his will in July 1799, George Washington anticipated the heartache that would arise when he freed the enslaved people belonging to him. Many were married to slaves owned by the Custis estate, whom he did not have the legal power to free. For this reason, he delayed the manumission of his slaves until Martha’s death, hoping to lessen the blow to enslaved families whose members had intermarried. “To emancipate them during her life,” he wrote, “would, tho’ earnestly wished by me, be attended with such insuperable difficulties on account of their intermixture by Marriages with the dower Negroes, as to excite the most painful sensations.”1

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Marquis de Lafayette's Plan for Slavery

In the closing days of the American Revolution, the Marquis de Lafayette wrote his old commander George?

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Nancy Carter Quander

Nancy was eleven years old in 1799, when George Washington made a list of all the enslaved people on his plantation. Two years later she was freed.

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Ona Judge

Ona "Oney" Judge Staines served as personal servant to Martha Washington until she escaped from the President's Mansion in Philadelphia and relocated to Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1796

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Phillis Wheatley

Although George Washington met her only once for a period of around half an hour, the kindness and respect

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Plantation Structure

"A large Virginia estate," wrote Washington Irving in his biography of George Washington, "was a little?

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Priscilla

In early July 1798 at Dogue Run Farm, thirty-five-year-old Priscilla gave birth to Christopher, her sixth living child.1 She did not resume working in the fields until five weeks later. Priscilla’s husband and Christopher’s father, Joe, was likely unable to see much of his newborn son. Like many enslaved couples at Mount Vernon, Priscilla and Joe lived separately.

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Private Lives of Slaves

Enslaved persons at Mount Vernon found a variety of ways to fill their time off from work.

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Sambo Anderson

The man who came to eventually be known as Sambo Anderson worked as a slave carpenter at Mount Vernon?

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Slave Clothing

In 1797, George Washington wrote to farm manager James Anderson in regards to clothing his slaves that?

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Slave Control

In addition to having overseers monitoring work on site, George Washington utilized a number of methods?

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Slave Demographics

According to George Washington's slave inventory, there were eighty-seven slaves on the Mansion House?

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Slave Labor

The Mount Vernon estate was divided into five separate farms, each of which was managed by an overseer who was either a hired free, white male, or one of George Washington's African slaves. These overseers were often supervised by a farm manager who reported to Washington on a weekly basis.

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Slave Quarters

In many ways the Mount Vernon estate was comprised of several small African-American villages, presided?

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Slave Religion

Slaves working on the Mount Vernon plantation practiced a variety of religious traditions and experiences?

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Slave Resistance

The enslaved population at Mount Vernon did not meekly accept their bonded lot in life. Many resisted?

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Slavery and Family

A census of the slaves at Mount Vernon made the summer before George Washington's death indicated that?

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Slavery and Marriage

At Mount Vernon the numbers of males and females in the slave population were fairly equal. A series?

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Slavery at Dogue Run Farm

There were forty-five slaves living on Dogue Run Farm in 1799, the last year of George Washington's life. Twenty-seven of these individuals were owned by George Washington, with the remaining eighteen being dower slaves owned by Martha Washington.

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Slavery at Mansion House Farm

According to the 1799 slave inventory taken at Mount Vernon, there were eighty-seven slaves on the Mansion House Farm in the summer of 1799.

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Slavery at Muddy Hole Farm

There were forty-two slaves living at Muddy Hole Farm in 1799, including thirty-six owned by George Washington, five who were Custis estate dower slaves owned by Martha Washington, and one man who was rented from Mrs. French, one of the Washington's neighbors.

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Slavery at River Farm

There were fifty-seven slaves living on River Farm in 1799, of whom twenty-seven were owned by George Washington.

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Slavery at Union Farm

The following information is based on the 1799 slave list compiled at Mount Vernon. In 1799 there were seventy-five slaves living at Union Farm.

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Status of Slaves in Washington's Will

Composed by his own hand in relative secrecy in early July 1799, George Washington’s “Last Will and Testament,” in addition to the dispersal of his estate, recognized the freedom of his enslaved workers upon his wife Martha Washington’s death. Washington’s provision for this emancipation represented the final view of a slaveholder who had been grappling with a moral dilemma and a desire “to get quit of” slavery at Mount Vernon as early as the American Revolution.1 As one of the first founding fathers to take a tangible action against slavery, Washington’s will served as an example of hope for the future of abolitionism. 

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Tom

On July 2, 1766, the schooner Swift lay anchored in the Potomac River awaiting a trading voyage to the Caribbean. Below deck, an enslaved man named Tom sat in handcuffs. A foreman on Mount Vernon’s River Farm, Tom had been inherited by George Washington from his elder half-brother Lawrence in 1754. Twelve years later, the enslaved man made a failed attempt to flee the plantation. In a letter to Joseph Thompson, captain of the Swift, Washington declared Tom a “rogue and a runaway” and directed that he be sold in the West Indies. Washington commented that Tom was “exceedingly healthy, strong, and good at the Hoe,” and “he may . . . sell well, if kept clean and trim’d up a little.”1

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William (Billy) Lee

William Lee arrived at Mount Vernon in 1768, after George Washington purchased him from Mary Lee, a wealthy Virginia widow, for £61.15s.1 Washington also bought William?s younger brother Frank, who went on to serve as a waiter and butler in the household.

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