Norrece Jones on Mt. Vernon
|Resource Bank Contents|
Q: Today when you go to a place like Mt. Vernon, it's held out as this monument to George Washington, to his life and industry, and as a national landmark. If we're thinking also about this concurrent history of slavery or exploitation, what does Mt. Vernon represent there?
A: I think Mt. Vernon, the Declaration of Independence, the American Constitution should not be held up as the symbols of freedom and democracy, because all of them are predicated on something I consider shameful at the inception of this nation.
In the case of Mt. Vernon, it personifies this avariciousness that justified the enrichment of an individual, and a whole group of people, based on the theft of labor of an entire people. And that the founding father, as George Washington has been called, at the time of his heroic deeds and role in the founding of this nation, was a slaveowner. And Thomas Jefferson, at the point of writing the Declaration of Independence. It's predicated on a lie. When he talks about "all men are created equal," he's excluding, has no sense or regard for, African Americans or any women.
But we can talk about the beauty and the architecture of these buildings and mansions and plantation homes in Virginia. Oftentimes they're called manor houses, to further distort the reality of what they were. They were plantations.
Norrece T. Jones, Jr.
Associate Professor of History and African American Studies
Virginia Commonwealth University
Part 2: Narrative | Resource Bank Contents | Teacher's Guide
Africans in America: Home | Resource Bank Index | Search | Shop
WGBH | PBS Online | ©