hat tip-The Grio.com
New exhibit pays tribute to George Washington’s slaves
A new outdoor exhibit is open in Philadelphia’s historic district after years of protests, research and debate about how to balance the stories of the nation’s battle for independence with its history of slavery.
“President’s House: Freedom and Slavery in Making a New Nation” is a permanent installation unveiled Wednesday on the footprint of the home and executive mansion of Presidents George Washington and John Adams when Philadelphia was the nation’s capital from 1790 to 1800.
At least nine of Washington’s slaves also lived at the President’s House, which was demolished in the 1830s.
The site is steps from Independence Hall, where the Founding Fathers declared that “all men are created equal,” as well as the Liberty Bell, a powerful symbol of the 19th century abolitionist movement.
“This is where the dialogue begins,” Mayor Michael Nutter told several hundred people who braved the bitter cold to attend the dedication. “This is where the conversation of this contradiction must start.”
A plan to revamp Independence Mall and move the Liberty Bell to a new building set the exhibit in motion. There was an outcry among some historians and African-American organizations after it was revealed in 2002 that the entrance to the Liberty Bell’s new home would be located only a few feet from where Washington’s slave quarters once stood.
In 2002, Congress directed the National Park Service to build a monument commemorating Washington’s slaves. The project was delayed for multiple revisions as officials and scholars discussed how to proceed with the dueling messages.
“I am known by some as the angriest black man in America,” said Michael Coard, an activist and attorney who led the charge for the slave memorial, joked with the crowd. “Today I am not angry. Today I am very happy.”
He called the completed President’s House site “a giant cultural leap for mankind and womankind, for black and for white.”
An enclosure built on the open-air site shows visitors parts of the house that were excavated in 2007 and artifacts found there. It also includes video vignettes and biographies of the men, women and children Washington kept as slaves there from 1790 to 1797. (Adams, who never owned slaves, moved in 1800 into the newly constructed President’s House, known today as the White House.)
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