The slave quarters at George Washington’s Mount Vernon have been opened to the public. With this new reconstruction, visitors will be able to see a more accurate depiction of the lives of the enslaved people who worked there.
The question of slavery has been an ongoing issue for historical locations in the south. For many years, the slave quarters, which had long since been demolished, were ignored. There were some records of where they had been located, and some historical plantations did make references to where slaves would have lived, but little was actually done to show how they lived. In recent years, archaeologists and scholars have been studying the evidence to determine how the slave quarters were built, and what the daily lives were like for the people who lived and worked on plantations and small farms.
The slave quarters at Mount Vernon were opened in 1962, but there have been many changes in attitudes and research since that time. Descendants of slaves who lived at Mount Vernon were invited to participate in the process and attend the ceremonies for opening this newly restored exhibit.
Historians have determined that the quarters would have separate men’s and women’s rooms with built-in bunks. The Mount Vernon organization estimates that there were dozens of men, women and children who would have lived in these quarters in 1799. People often think of slaves working as unskilled laborers in the fields, but these quarters will show, “Reproduction clothing, tools, furniture, cookware, ceramics, toys, and personal accessories will outfit the space to emphasize the living conditions and experiences of enslaved people as skilled craftsmen, house slaves, and laborers on the Mansion House Farm.”
Most of the work of the plantation was done by slaves, and slaves were the servants working in the main house. Mount Vernon was the beloved home of President George Washington, his wife Martha, and some of his grandchildren. Many of these slaves were brought to Mount Vernon as part of the property of Martha Washington, and were her separate property.
As the home of such an important man, Mount Vernon is an important stop for tourists from everywhere, and for residents living nearby. There is a new educational center and museum on the site, and efforts are being made to improve the accuracy of the buildings and the grounds. This is one more step in the process of showing the entire estate of Mount Vernon.
Sources: A visit as a guest of Mount Vernon and follow up information provided.