Part 1: 1450-1750
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Part 3: 1791-1831
Part 4: 1831-1865

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Modern Voices
John Ferling on Washington's attitudes towards slaves
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Q: What do we know about Washington's early experiences and his attitudes towards slaves?
John Ferling

A: I don't think Washington, probably, like most white slaveowners in Virginia, ever seems to have given much thought to owning slaves, to the morality of owning slaves. His parents owned slaves, his grandparents have been slaveowners, his older brothers were slaveowners. Slaveowning was common in the northern neck of Virginia, where Washington grew up. It was just an accustomed part of life, and I don't think Washington ever confronted the morality of slavery. There's absolutely no evidence that Washington thought in terms of the morality or the immorality of slave owning before he left Virginia to become Commander of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.
John Ferling
Professor of History
University of Georgia

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