Released by Rebecca Aloisi, mountvernon.org
On October 1, 2016, George Washington’s Mount Vernon opened a groundbreaking exhibition that highlights new research into the experiences of the enslaved people who lived and worked at the estate during Washington’s time. Lives Bound Together: Slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon presents the personal stories of these men, women, and children, while also exploring Washington’s growing opposition to slavery.
This 4,400-square-foot exhibition stretches throughout all seven galleries of the Donald W. Reynolds Museum. Using household furnishings, art works, archaeological discoveries, documents, and interactive displays, the exhibition demonstrates how closely intertwined the lives of the Washingtons were with those of the enslaved. More than 300 featured artifacts—from tools used in the field to buttons used as adornments—appear alongside historic documents and records, providing insights into the enslaved community’s daily lives.
“This exhibition has been literally years in the making,” said Mount Vernon president Curt Viebranz. “The meticulous records kept by George Washington and his farm managers coupled with extensive research undertaken by Mount Vernon staff and other scholars allows us to tell these rich, deeply personal stories, as we also shed light on Washington’s evolving views on slavery.”
To bring these threads together in a tangible and accessible way, the exhibition focuses on the stories of nineteen enslaved individuals, who are represented with life-size silhouettes. Their life stories, further detailed on interactive touch screens, reveal a range of experiences, from William Lee (Washington’s personal valet) to Sambo Anderson (a carpenter and father of six) to Kate (a field worker and midwife).
In the exhibition galleries and on the supporting website, www.mountvernon.org/livesboundtogether, visitors will also gain a better understanding of Washington’s changing views towards slavery. As a boy, he inherited 10 slaves, and as an adult he purchased additional slaves to maintain and operate his home and plantation. During and after the Revolution, his opinion of slavery changed, and he struggled to extricate himself from reliance on slave labor. This evolution in thinking culminated with a provision in his will freeing the slaves that he owned upon his and his wife’s deaths.
Lives Bound Together would not have been possible without contributions from Ambassador and Mrs. Nicholas F. Taubman, the Dr. Scholl Foundation, an anonymous donor, and other individuals and foundations.
For more information, visit www.mountvernon.org/livesboundtogether.