Learn About the Daily Lives of the Enslaved Community
Mount Vernon was a thriving plantation because 318 enslaved people working sun up to sun down in bondage to George Washington. George Washington profited from this system of enslavement throughout his life, and, despite private letters suggesting a shift in attitudes, only arranged to free those he enslaved after his death.
In an hour-long tour:
- See where Mount Vernon’s enslaved people worked and lived.
- Gain insights into enslaved individuals and their duties, what they ate, how they were clothed, how they established families, and the penalties for their resistance.
Enslaved people worked in the Mansion, cooking, cleaning, and responding to the wants of the Washington family and their guests. Their labor produced the income and lifestyle that allowed Washington the opportunities to increase his wealth and serve his country.
Hear Their Personal Stories
On this tour, you'll learn about:
- Ona Judge, Martha Washington’s lady’s maid, who escaped to freedom from the President’s Mansion in Philadelphia
- William Lee, George Washington’s valet, who served with him during the Revolutionary War
- Hercules, a favorite cook of the Washington family, and one of the few enslaved people who escaped during Washington’s lifetime
Tribute at the Slave Memorial and Cemetery
Immediately following this tour, accompany the guide down to participate in a moving tribute at the Slave Memorial and Cemetery. The 1983 Memorial comprises three circles, symbolizing faith, hope, and love.
A boxwood wreath is placed at the Memorial, while individual enslaved people’s histories are recounted.
Also view the unmarked graves of 87 enslaved people, their discovery the result of an ongoing archeological project begun in 2014.
Please allow 10-15 minutes to walk from the Ford Orientation Center to the Mansion Circle to meet your guide.