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Where is it Located

About the Slave Memorial

Opened in 1983, the Mount Vernon Slave Memorial commemorates the lives of the many enslaved men, women, and children that lived and toiled at Mount Vernon. The memorial is placed near the location of Mount Vernon's slave cemetery. The slave burial ground near the Tomb was one of several on the plantation. The bodies of enslaved individuals who worked on the Mansion House Farm were laid to rest here, on a quiet wooded hillside above the Potomac River.

Enslaved persons were buried in coffins made on the plantation. Although there are no markers, ground-penetrating radar indicates that there are from 50 to 75 graves, oriented on an east-west axis. While this is the customary Western model for placing bodies, a tradition in the local African American community has it that the bodies were laid this way so they could face toward Africa—symbolizing a desire to return home.

In 1929 the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association erected a modest memorial to slaves buried on the estate—the first of its kind in the nation. It remained the cemetery’s only marker until 1983 when a more formal and substantial memorial was dedicated. Designed by architecture students from Howard University in Washington, D.C., it features a granite shaft in the center of a small circular plaza. The words Love, Hope, and Faith—drawn from biblical scriptures that helped sustain African Americans in slavery—are inscribed on the memorial’s steps.

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