A Light on Slaves' Lives at Mount Vernon





Joann Bagnerise couldn't bring herself to visit George Washington's home at Mount Vernon, driving by without stopping, thinking too much about the hundreds of slaves who had labored in the mansion and fields beyond the brick walls. Even yesterday, as the Dumfries resident sat in the warm sun near the estate's new model of a slave cabin, she said she was filled with conflicting emotions.

"It's very solemn," she said from underneath the brim of a wide straw hat. "I'm feeling all who were enslaved here. I'm just standing on their shoulders."
Yesterday, Mount Vernon unveiled its highest-profile slavery exhibit in years, a 16-by-14-foot log cabin modeled on the field hands' quarters on Washington's vast estate along the Potomac River. The exhibit is the first to show how the majority of Washington's slaves lived, Mount Vernon officials said.

In recent years, Mount Vernon -- the most visited historic home in the country -- has undertaken a pricey effort to renew interest in the life of the nation's first president, culminating with the opening of a $110 million orientation and museum center last year. Yet officials say visitors have always craved more information about slavery, one of the most troubling aspects of the life of the war hero, president and statesman.



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Vernon Clayson - 9/22/2007

It's time for people who weep over conditions of slavery over 200 hundred ago to suck it up. That was then, this is now. George Washington is dead, his slaves are dead. I don't believe there are any descendants for him but there are likely descendants of his slaves. Chances are many are productive educated citizens with time to moan over long ago insults to humanity, many are probably too busy making a living to concern themselves with ancestors who lived two centuries ago, and some are settled in communities with no hopes or aspirations. That sounds like most of the people in the world, doesn't it? Why is it earth shaking to see Washington's slave quarters, there were thousands of people settling the west who would have traded their rude huts with dirt floors for his slave quarters, almost sumptious in comparison.

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