Mass’ah Washington

    It’s somewhat ironic that the place where George Washington lived and worked as our first president is on the same block as The Liberty Bell. Why? Because it’s the spot on which the much-ballyhooed father of our country was serviced by slaves.

    The President’s House is one of two museums to open recently in Center City Philadelphia. The other is The Museum of American Jewish History at 5th and Market Streets.

    More coverage:
    Allen’s Lane Blog: Mass’ah Washington’s House
    Previously: A president and his property
    NPR coverage of the opening

    “Only in America” adorns the side of the Jewish museum as a testament to the freedom that so many seek. But those words ring hollow when viewed from the vantage point of The President’s House at 6th and Market.

    While free men were toiling to perfect the new democracy just one block away in Independence Hall, slaves owned by George and Martha were toiling away in the nation’s first “White House.”

    American history books in my high school failed to mention that the Washingtons owned slaves. In fact, they brought nine enslaved Africans with them from Mount Vernon when the couple officially moved to Philadelphia in 1790.

    Today, most everyone will say they are appalled by the racist tactics of Bull Connor, the Birmingham, Alabama sheriff who used firehoses and attack dogs to keep black people “in their place” in the 1960s.

    Is there a comparison between Bull Connor who didn’t see black people as human beings and George Washington?

    If only we could ask the nine; Oney, Austin, Moll, Paris, Hercules, Christopher, Richmond, Giles and Joe.

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