Here’s How Many Slaves George Washington Actually Owned

The first president of the United States, George Washington, was not only a wealthy slave owner, according to the White House Historical Association, he also set the precedent for bringing slave labor to the newly formed President’s House in New York after winning the presidency in 1789. Though 57 years old when inaugurated, Washington had owned slaves since he was 11 years old, when he inherited 10 slaves after his father died in 1743, per the website George Washington’s Mount Vernon

According to the National Park Service, Washington didn’t inherit his family’s Virginia property, Mount Vernon, until 1761, after the death of his late brother’s wife. He bought several more slaves prior to the land becoming his, even as he was busy growing into a man and a military leader. Regardless, Mount Vernon was where he grew up and where his family was, and he likely understood it would belong to him one day. 

According to George Washington’s Mount Vernon, by the time Washington was a young adult he bought at least eight more slaves – one of them a carpenter. In 1755, he bought even more enslaved people, including two women and a child, plus four more men. But these numbers pale in comparison to the number of slaves owned by Washington and his wife by the time he died.

George and Martha Washington both freed slaves

When George Washington died in 1799 there were 317 enslaved people living and working at Mount Vernon, but technically he only owned 123 of them, per George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Most of the others were the property of his wife Martha’s first husband’s estate. Martha (pictured above) inherited one-third of the estate of her late husband, Daniel Parke Custis, as he died without a will.

When George and Martha married in 1759, she brought with her 84 enslaved people from Custis’ estate, and over time that number grew. George and Martha seemed to have no qualms about using slave labor, as the couple spent a couple of decades remodeling and enlarging the original family home, adding wings and essentially making the place palatial, according to the National Park Service. Slaves were also used to do the work on what eventually became 8,000 acres of farm land at Mount Vernon. 

While the Washingtons utilized the slave labor of hundreds of people, George stipulated in his will that their slaves should be emancipated after Martha died, but as it turned out, those that were the property of the Custis estate were not his to free by law, and they were divided between the Custis grandchildren, per George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Still, those 123 enslaved people owned by George Washington did finally get their freedom on January 1, 1801, after Martha, still living, signed a deed of manumission, a formal legal process which emancipated them (per Encyclopedia.com). 

pictellme.com