Friday, June 20, 2014

Mary Thompson on George Washington the Slaveholder

Mary Thompson works as a researcher at Mount Vernon.  She knows a lot about George Washington.  I was lucky enough to convince Mary to write a blurb for my book Was America Founded as a Christian Naiton?: A Historical Introduction.  I first learned of her work through her book In the Hands of a Good Providence: Religion in the Life of George Washington  This is the best book I have read on Washington's religious beliefs. 

In the last several years Mary has turned her attention to slavery at Mount Vernon.  I know she has been working on a book on the topic.  I look forward to reading it.

Mary has given us a taste of some of her work in a recent article at The Journal of the American Revolution entitled "William Lee & Oney Judge: A Look at George Washington & Slavery.

Here is a taste:

George Washington was a slave owner for his entire life, a fact that surprises many of his fellow citizens more than 200 years after his death. When they find out, people respond to this information in surprising ways. A visitor from California to a historic site in Virginia sat down in shock when upon learning the news about Washington, and then begin to weep. Some get angry at him, seeing Washington with new eyes, no longer the brave and steady leader who won freedom for the United States, but a man instead, whose good deeds have been totally erased by the fact that he owned slaves. To put things in better perspective, let’s look at the lives of two of those slaves who labored for George Washington: William Lee and Oney Judge. William is primarily known for his loyalty to Washington at a time when he could easily have left, while Oney is remembered chiefly because she escaped from the Washingtons and slavery. These are two remarkable individuals; there were similarities and differences in their lives that illuminate not just their stories, but also tell us something about Washington and the institution of slavery.