Slave Passageway found at George Washington’s Presidential Home

by c-mama

I clicked on a link in my gmail account today. The article was from the Discovery Channel, a source which has become an untrustworthy source of information, in my opinion. ETA: I did see that the author of the article is with the A/P and not Discovery Channel. But, even so, they have the article on their site.

But this is not entirely their fault.

First, let me share with you the article, source found here (the bold, italics, underlined and small text are my comments):

June 7, 2007 —Archaeologists unearthing the remains of George Washington’s presidential home have discovered a hidden passageway used by his nine slaves, raising questions about whether the ruins should be incorporated into a new exhibit at the site.

The underground passageway is just steps from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. It was designed so Washington’s guests would not see slaves as they slipped in and out of the main house. (How do they know why this underground passageway was designed?)

“As you enter the heaven of liberty, you literally have to cross the hell of slavery,” (Because this house was the worst place where slavery occurred, or the only place where slavery occurred? Come on! George Washington lived in an era where slavery was accepted. It’s not as if he was doing something he said he didn’t.) said Michael Coard, a Philadelphia attorney who leads a group that worked to have slavery recognized at the site. “That’s the contrast, that’s the contradiction, that’s the hypocrisy. But that’s also the truth.”

Washington lived and conducted presidential business at the house in the 1790s, when Philadelphia was the nation’s capital.

The findings have created a quandary for National Park Service and city officials planning an exhibit at the house. They are now trying to decide whether to incorporate the remains into the exhibit or go forward with plans to fill in the ruins and build an abstract display about life in the house. (Leave the house as is. Do not make out the gentleman to be someone he was not. He was a slave owner, but so were most of the people living in that era. I don’t think that he would have wanted that fact hidden.)

Making that decision will push back the building of the exhibit, which had been slated to open in 2009. But the oversight committee won’t rush into construction, said Joyce Wilkerson, the mayor’s chief of staff.

“We never thought we’d be faced with this kind of decision,” she said. “We would’ve been happy to have found a pipe! And so we don’t want to proceed blindly or say, ‘This isn’t in the plan.'”

Rep. Bob Brady, D-Pa., was so moved when he visited the site last week that he declared: “We need to rethink what we’re doing here.”

“It’s astounding, absolutely astounding,” Brady said. “I’m going to fight to keep it open, I’ll tell you that much.” (I still don’t see what’s so astounding about this.)

Aside from the passageway, archaeologists have uncovered remnants of a bow window, an architectural precursor to the White House’s Oval Office, and a large basement that was never noted in historic records.

“We actually found a lot more of the remains of the President’s House than anyone expected. Myself included,” said Jed Levin, an archaeologist with the National Park Service.

Thousands of visitors have been drawn to the ruins, standing on a small wooden platform to gaze down at the house’s brick and stone foundation. The public response spurred officials to continue the excavation until at least July 4; it began in March and had been scheduled to end last month.

Archaeologists have served as guides, answering visitors’ questions. Cheryl LaRoche, a cultural heritage specialist, said she enjoys educating people about how even a prominent statesman like Washington could own slaves. (Does she enjoy educating people or gossiping about them? Seems like people are very much enjoying dragging his name through the mud.)

“We’ve been striving to present a balanced view of history that stands apart from what’s been taught in history books,” LaRoche said. (I don’t know what’s written in history books, but the very first search I came across when searching “George Washington Slaves” brought me to a site that said that he inherited his father’s slaves at about age 10 and owned slaves until he died. But, if history books are hiding the fact that he owned slaves, yes, that is wrong, but don’t blame Washington for that. I don’t believe he hid this fact from the public.)

Before the ruins were unearthed, officials had planned an exhibit without archaeological findings. The planned design included a framework of the house, LED screens and other audiovisual elements explaining its history, including stories of Washington’s slaves. (Oh, stories of Washington’s slaves? You mean, they were going to discuss the fact that he had slaves? So what is the big deal about finding a slave passageway? Really, this is ridiculous.)

The remains would crumble if left unprotected. If the design included elevators, ramps or stairs to move visitors down into the newly dug ruins, costs would increase significantly.

Coard said he is confident the oversight committee will find the best way to tell the slaves’ stories.

“Everybody’s on board in terms of seriously considering incorporating the architectural dig into the design,” Coard said. “The question now is: Is it doable? Nobody is saying, ‘No, it shouldn’t be done.'”

David Orr, an anthropology professor at Temple University, has visited the site at least four times. He posted a note on the President’s House Web site urging officials to keep the ruins on display.

“It’s just fantastic,” Orr said. “I can’t tell you enough how exciting it is. For years and years and years I’ve been trying to promote that kind of public archaeology.”

~~~~~ end of story ~~~~~
Here is the first article I came across when searching “George Washington slaves”, Source

George Washington and Slavery

George Washington was born into a world in which slavery was accepted. He became a slave owner when his father died in 1743. At the age of eleven, he inherited ten slaves and 500 acres of land. When he began farming Mount Vernon eleven years later, at the age of 22, he had a work force of about 36 slaves. With his marriage to Martha Custis in 1759, 20 of her slaves came to Mount Vernon. After their marriage, Washington purchased even more slaves. The slave population also increased because the slaves were marrying and raising their own families. By 1799, when George Washington died, there were 316 slaves living on the estate.

The skilled and manual labor needed to run Mount Vernon was largely provided by slaves. Many of the working slaves were trained in crafts such as milling, coopering, blacksmithing, carpentry,and shoemaking. The others worked as house servants, boatmen, coachmen or field hands. Some female slaves were also taught skills, particularly spinning, weaving and sewing, while others worked as house servants or in the laundry, the dairy, or the kitchen. Many female slaves also worked in the fields. Almost three-quarters of the 184 working slaves at Mount Vernon worked in the fields, and of those, about 60% were women.

The workday for slaves was from sun-up to sun-down, six days a week. Sunday was a day of rest.

Although George Washington was born into a world where slavery was accepted, his attitude toward slavery changed as he grew older. During the Revolution, as he and fellow patriots strove for liberty, Washington became increasingly conscious of the contradiction between this struggle and the system of slavery. By the time of his presidency, he seems to have believed that slavery was wrong and against the principles of the new nation.

As President, Washington did not lead a public fight against slavery, however, because he believed it would tear the new nation apart. Abolition had many opponents, especially in the South. Washington seems to have feared that if he took such a public stand, the southern states would withdraw from the Union (something they would do seventy years later, leading to the Civil War). He had worked too hard to build the country to risk tearing it apart.

Privately, however, Washington could — and did — lead by example. In his will, he arranged for all of the slaves he owned to be freed after the death of his wife, Martha. He also left instructions for the continued care and education of some of his former slaves, support and training for all of the children until they came of age, and continuing support for the elderly.

~~~~~end of article~~~~~

I am against slavery. I am also against dragging people’s name through the mud. Because I can find, on the first article that comes up on a search of George Washington slave, evidence that he owned slaves and nothing in the article saying he hid this fact, I see Discovery’s reasoning behind the article to simply make George Washington look like a bad guy. They do not mention that slavery was accepted when he was alive. They don’t explain why the findings of this passageway was such a big deal except to tell us why it was designed, but how do they know why it was designed, if wasn’t noted in the historic records. Discovery, again, is putting it’s own spin on things, doing what they are accusing the history books of doing. I simply do not see “truth-seeking” in what the Discovery Network does. All is see is them stirring the pot for no apparent reason.

I have been known to overreact to things. Am I overreacting here?