History & Social Studies Race & Racism

BHM Series #10: Missing from Presidents Day: The People They Enslaved

In honor of Black History Month, I’m reposting this previous series. A few years ago, (2015 to be exact!) I challenged myself to write 28 posts highlighting African-American History. This year I finally reached my goal!!! Check out my original post below which appeared on February 16, 2015. To see more posts in this series, click here.

We celebrate Presidents Day every year, it’s a great opportunity to learn more about history.

I remember visiting Washington D.C. the summer of my 5th grade year and being shocked to learn upon my tour of President Washington’s Mount Vernon home, that he had slaves. I was even more shocked that this major fact was just glossed over by the tour guide: “…and over there were the slaves quarters. Now let’s move on to the grand parlor!”

“Did I just hear that?” I thought, “Why isn’t anyone talking about this?” 

History books have improved a lot since my day, but I am sure they still gloss over the fact that our country was built , from its very first days, on the backs of enslaved Africans. 

That said, I was grateful to find two great articles 1) from the New York Times Opinion Pages and 2) from the Huffington Post’s Zinn Education Project. Now that I’ve shared it with you… educate your self! 🙂

George Washington, Slave Catcher

By Erica Armstrong Dunbar

When he was 11 years old, Washington inherited 10 slaves from his father’s estate. He continued to acquire slaves — some through the death of family members and others through direct purchase. Washington’s cache of enslaved people peaked in 1759 when he married the wealthy widow Martha Dandridge Custis. His new wife brought more than 80 slaves to the estate at Mount Vernon. On the eve of the American Revolution, nearly 150 souls were counted as part of the property there.

Read more here.

Missing from Presidents Day: The People They Enslaved

By Clarence Lusane

“Schools across the country are adorned with posters of the 44 U.S. presidents and the years they served in office. U.S. history textbooks describe the accomplishments and challenges of the major presidential administrations — George Washington had the Revolutionary War, Abraham Lincoln the Civil War, Teddy Roosevelt the Spanish-American War, and so on…. 

Nowhere in all this information is there any mention of the fact that more than one in four U.S. presidents were involved in human trafficking and slavery. These presidents bought, sold, and bred enslaved people for profit. Of the 12 presidents who were enslavers, more than half kept people in bondage at the White House. For this reason, there is little doubt that the first person of African descent to enter the White House — or the presidential homes used in New York (1788-90) and Philadelphia (1790-1800) before construction of the White House was complete — was an enslaved person.”

Read more here.

Related Reads: Click here to view more posts in this series.

Who inspires you?  Help me reach my goal of 28 posts and email me or post your great resources in the comments below.

My homework assignment: Inspired by an SNL’s skit, I challenged myself to write 28 posts highlighting African-American culture and heritage (roughly one for each day of the month)… Do you have a great resource to share? Post it in the comments or email me! Missing from Presidents Day – The People they Enslaved.

If you found this post informative, can you please share it? Thank you!

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