A new gallery exhibition at Mount Vernon explores the lives of the slaves who toiled on George Washington's estate, and Washington's changing attitudes toward slavery.
The exhibit, called 'Lives Bound Together' opened Oct. 1 after years of research and planning, and now focuses attention on what has previously been at best a sidelight at one of the Washington area's top visitor attractions.
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.
To shift the focus from the documents and objects to the people themselves, the exhibit explores the lives of 19 enslaved individuals, men and women. They are represented as life-size silhouettes throughout the galleries.
The exhibit also follows Washington's changing attitudes toward slavery, especially during and after the Revolution. In his will, he freed the slaves that he still owned (although the estate continued to operate with slaves owned by his widow).
The exhibition has a supporting website with more information.