JHU Seminar 3/28/2017 Mount Vernon…It’s Complicated


I approve of this mug. … I may have also purchased it…


I love going to Mount Vernon, I always get something out of a visit there.

Mount Vernon has already inspired me to write two of my Pre-Seminar Blog Posts. (Feel Free to check them out!):

Who Owns George Washington’s Home, Mount Vernon? Probably not who you think…


A Key With no Door…but Today Opens a lot More


Today’s lesson:

Well…It”s Complicated.

George Washington is invariably the “Hero” of the story of Mount Vernon. “General Washington” was a man who by sheer force of personality was able to sway the direction of war and politics.

There is a reason why the father of our nation is so visible in the national iconography.

Yet, Mount Vernon also works to tell the story of the enslaved peoples, who made up the majority of Mount Vernon’s residents. In this story, Washington is actually the “Villain” as the plantation slave owner.

What Mount Vernon is trying to do is say is that this dichotomy is ok. It”s a complex story. and Washington was a Complicated individual who lived in a complicated time.

This is a good thing.

I was struck when we were being given a  tour of the museum, and it was mentioned that many of the objects had previously been on display but in a different context.

Where previously the silver spoons were shown to indicate the elegance of the Washington’s, now their is a discussion of “Who had to polish and set the Silver spoons.”

Both are valid stories to tell, and these same objects can to a good job of telling both stories.

Character Interpreter Jonathan Wood, here portraying Washington’s Valet Christopher Shields did an incredible job of showing the two sides of Washington, and that as always the story well…it’s Complicated. The ladies also thought he was quite good looking…

History is complicated, and it is very rewarding to be able to appreciate the different layers.

What is hard for some is being able to see one layer and not reject the other layer.

Washington was a/the great man of American history and is justly respected for those achievements.

That is valid.
Washington was a slave owner, and though he may have had some ambivalence about slavery later in life, he still fully participated and profited off the work of enslaved people, occasionally even working directly to keep them enslaved.



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