A revealing portrait of the father of our country as a slave owner.
Revered and remembered as the man who led the young United States to a Revolutionary War victory over the British and served two terms as our first president, Washington was also a Virginia plantation owner and slaveholder. Delano details the day-to-day operations of Mount Vernon and the work, food, clothing and family life of Washington’s slaves. Short biographical sketches are given on those few whose names survive. Washington was a hands-on manager of his land and his “people,” as he referred to the enslaved. What separates him from other Founding Fathers is the turn in his thinking that led him, not long before his death, to change his will and free his slaves. (Martha Washington’s slaves were her dower property from her first husband and were not affected by this.) A generous serving of period illustrations and photographs of Mount Vernon’s historical interpreters adds great visual interest and clarity, although the contemporary folk are no doubt much better dressed and fed. Endpapers excerpt the Declaration of Independence and Washington’s last will and testament. Delano has succeeded in writing a carefully researched, balanced and ultimately moving story.
A thoughtful new insight into an iconic American life. (endnote, chronology, bibliography, sources, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)