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Returning to Lives Bound Together on Juneteenth with Jessie MacLeod

This Friday marks the anniversary of Juneteenth, the holiday that commemorates the moment on June 19, 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas learned they were freed by Emancipation Proclamation and the Confederacy’s defeat in the Civil War. It is also known as Freedom Day or Liberation Day.

To celebrate,  Brenda Parker, Mount Vernon Character Interpreter & African American Interpretation & Special Projects Coordinator, will perform Freedom Skies, a special Live Stream event on Juneteenth focused on the experiences of four individuals at Mount Vernon on Manumission Day—January 1, 1801—when Martha Washington freed the late George Washington’s enslaved people.

You can find more information by going to

On today's show, Associate Curator Jessie MacLeod returns to Conversations to update us on recent research on slavery at Mount Vernon. MacLeod is the lead curator of Lives Bound Together, an exhibit that debuted in 2016. It tells the story of the enslaved community on the estate during George Washington’s life.

As Juneteenth approaches, we wanted to learn more about the research that inspired this exhibit, how MacLeod and her team put it together, and as importantly, the discoveries that have been made since its installation and what new questions we are pursuing that can help us better understand how the African American community at Mount Vernon navigated slavery and freedom in the nineteenth century.

About Our Guest:

Jessie MacLeod is an Associate Curator at Mount Vernon, where she has worked since 2012. She was the lead curator for the landmark exhibition Lives Bound Together: Slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and a contributor to the accompanying publication. She is also responsible for developing special exhibits across the estate, managing Mount Vernon’s collection of historic prints, and researching the Mansion’s 18th-century furnishings.

About Our Host:

Jim Ambuske leads the Center for Digital History at the Washington Library. He received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Virginia in 2016 with a focus on Scotland and America in an Age of War and Revolution. He is a former Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Virginia Law Library. At UVA, Ambuske co-directed the 1828 Catalogue Project and the Scottish Court of Session Project.  He is the co-author with Randall Flaherty of "Reading Law in the Early Republic: Legal Education in the Age of Jefferson," in The Founding of Thomas Jefferson's University ed. by John A. Rogasta, Peter S. Onuf, and Andrew O'Shaughnessy (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019). Ambuske is currently at work on a book entitled Emigration and Empire: America and Scotland in the Revolutionary Era, as well as a chapter on Scottish loyalism during the American Revolution for a volume to be published by the University of Edinburgh Press.