From his letters, diaries, financial documents, and other written documents, George Washington revealed a complex, evolving opinion of slavery. Visit the resources below for more information on the institution of slavery as it related to Washington, as a Virginia farmer, a commander-in-chief, and a President.
Letters and Documents to/from Washington related to Slavery
- Phillis Wheatley’s poem dedicated to George Washington, 26 October 1775, and Washington’s reply to Wheatley, 28 February 1776. Wheatley’s poem, published in The Pennsylvania Magazine: or, American Monthly Museum, can be found here. Original manuscript images of Washington’s letter at the Library of Congress are here: Page 1 and Page 2. For more information on Phillis Wheatley, visit Mount Vernon’s digital encyclopedia page.
- Lease for Mount Vernon, 17 December 1754.
- Advertisement for Runaway Slaves, 20 August 1761.
- Appraisement of Slaves Sent to the Dismal Swamp, 4 July 1764.
- George Washington to John Francis Mercer, 9 September 1786.
- George Washington to John Francis Mercer, 24 November 1786.
- List of Washington’s Slaves, 18 February 1786.
- Washington’s Last Will and Testament, 9 July 1799.
- List of Washington’s Slaves, 1799.
- Lists of Tithables and Taxable Land and Property
- List of Tithables in Fairfax County, May 1760
- List of Tithables in Fairfax County, 4 June 1761
- List of Tithables in Fairfax County Given to Capt. D. McCarty, 9 June 1762
- List of Tithables in Fairfax County to Collo. Jno. Carlyle, 10 June 1763
- List of Tithables and Taxable Land and Property in Truro Parish, Fairfax County, 17 June 1764
- List of Tithables and Taxable Land and Property in Truro Parish, Fairfax County, 2 July 1765
- List of Tithables and Taxable Land and Property in Truro Parish, Fairfax County, 16 June 1766
- List of Tithables and Taxable Land and Property in Truro Parish, Fairfax County, 15 June 1767
- List of Tithables and Taxable Property in Truro Parish, Fairfax County, 20 June 1768
- List of Tithables in Truro Parish Fairfax County, 20 June 1769
- List of Tithables in Truro Parish Fairfax County, 16 July 1770
- List of Tithables in Truro Parish, Fairfax County, 14th June 1771
- List of Tithables in Truro Parish, Fairfax County, 10 June 1772
- List of Tithables in Truro Parish, Fairfax County, 9 June 1773
- List of Tithables in Truro Parish, Fairfax County, July 1774
Sites at Mount Vernon
- George Washington and Slavery provides an overview of slavery at Mount Vernon and offers further exploration of several slaves.
- Meet People from the Past has videos of first-person interpreters at Mount Vernon, including Billy Lee, Washington’s manservant.
- Ten Facts About Washington and Slavery at Mount Vernon.
- C-SPAN video of Mt. Vernon’s slave quarters, 18 July 2011.
- George Washington Wired, Mount Vernon’s updated posts on recently published material and new finds related to George Washington and slavery at Mount Vernon.
- Martha Washington’s attitude toward slavery through Mount Vernon.
- The Private Life of George Washington’s Slaves, Mary V. Thompson, Virginia Cavalcade, Vol. 48, No. 4 (Autumn 1999), pp. 178-190.
- George Washington and the Politics of Slavery, Dennis J. Pogue, Historic Alexandria Quarterly, Spring 2003.
- “That Species of Property”: Washington’s Role in the Controversy Over Slavery, Dorothy Twohig in George Washington Reconsidered, ed. Don Higginbotham (Charlottesville, Va., 2001), 114-138.
- Freeing His Slaves is One of Washington’s Greatest Legacies, Nancy Hurrelbrinck, Inside UVA Online, 2001. Also accessible on the PGW website.
- The Founding Father and His Slaves, Sarah Booth Conroy, The Washington Post, 1998.
- Atlantic Slavery, Atlantic Freedom: George Washington, Slavery, and Transatlantic Abolitionist Networks, Francois Furstenberg, The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 68, No. 2 (April 2011), pp. 247-286.
- George Washington and the Problem of Slavery, Kenneth Morgan, Journal of American Studies, Vol. 34, No. 2 (2000), pp. 279-301.
- The Domestic Architecture of Slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Dennis J. Pogue, Winterthur Portfolio, Vol. 37, No. 1 (Spring 2002), pp. 3-22.
- “To Get Quit of Negroes”: George Washington and Slavery, Philip D. Morgan, Journal of American Studies, 2005.
Other Published Works
- Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz’s excerpt in Experiencing Mount Vernon: Eyewitness Accounts, 1784-1865, ed. Jean Butenhoff Lee (Charlottesville, Va., 2006), 69-88.
- “The Only Unavoidable Subject of Regret”: George Washington and Slavery, Peter R. Henriques in his Realistic Visionary: A Portrait of George Washington, University of Virginia Press, 2006.
- An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America, Henry Wiencek, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003.
- Slavery at the Home of George Washington, ed. Philip J. Schwarz, University of Virginia Press, 2002.
- George Washington and Slavery: A Documentary Portrayal, Fritz Hirschfeld, University of Missouri Press, 1997.
- The President’s House: Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation and learn more of its developmental stages from the NBC News report, announcing the discovery of a slave passage, 7 July 2007.
- Washington and Slavery, C-SPAN video of Mary Thompson’s discussion, 20 February 1999. A transcript of the discussion can be found here.
- George Washington’s Slaves, C-SPAN video of Peter Henriques’ talk, 15 February 2011.
- George Washington and Slavery, podcast of Henry Wiencek’s lecture at Boston University, 1 February 2004. His discussion begins at six minutes.
- The Greatness of George Washington, video of Gordon Wood’s lecture, 5 June 2013.
Related Reading Material for Children and Young Adults
- Master George’s People: George Washington, His Slaves, and His Revolutionary Transformation, Marfé Ferguson Delano, National Geographic Children’s Books, 2013.
- The Escape of Oney Judge: Martha Washington’s Slave Finds Freedom, Emily Arnold McCully, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.
- Colonel Washington and Me: George Washington, His Slave William Lee and Their Incredible Journey Together, Jeffrey E. Finegan Sr., Siegle Books, 2012.