Monday, February 21, 2011
The annual MLK observance at the state house in Columbia, SC had an interesting twist this year. The event is held on the north side steps of the statehouse. Prominent at that location is a large bronze statue of George Washington. This year a "box" to conceal the Father of His Country from view was constructed apparently so that participants would not be offended by his presence.
George Washington and Slavery
George Washington and slavery
George Washington and Slavery A message For President's Day
George Washington was born into a world in which slavery was accepted. He became a slave owner when his father died in 1743. At the age of eleven, he inherited ten slaves and 500 acres of land. When he began farming Mount Vernon eleven years later, at the age of 22, he had a work force of about 36 slaves. With his marriage to Martha Custis in 1759, 20 of her slaves came to Mount Vernon. After their marriage, Washington purchased even more slaves. The slave population also increased because the slaves were marrying and raising their own families. By 1799, when George Washington died, there were 316 slaves living on the estate.
Slaves played an integral role in Mount Vernon's history. Although little written documentation exists from the slaves themselves, much is known about their lives through primary documents left by Washington and visitors to Mount Vernon. The skilled and manual labor needed to run Mount Vernon was largely provided by slaves. Many of the working slaves were trained in crafts such as milling, coopering, blacksmithing, carpentry,and shoemaking. The others worked as house servants, boatmen, coachmen or field hands. Some female slaves were also taught skills, particularly spinning, weaving and sewing, while others worked as house servants or in the laundry, the dairy, or the kitchen. Many female slaves also worked in the fields. Almost three-quarters of the 184 working slaves at Mount Vernon worked in the fields, and of those, about 60% were women.
Food grown at Mount Vernon was distributed to the slaves and their families and to the Washingtons. Any surplus was sold at market. The slaves received their food rations weekly. Many slaves also kept their own gardens to supplement their diet. The slaves could sell their food at local markets to earn extra income. The slaves were also issued clothing once a year.
The work-day at Mount Vernon was from sunrise to sunset, with 2 hours off for meals. Sunday was a holiday. Slaves also received 3-4 days off at Christmas, and the Monday after Easter and Pentecost as holidays. If a slave was required to work a Sunday during harvest, Washington would allow them a day off later, and sometimes compensated them with pay.
George Washington's attitude toward slavery changed as he grew older. During the Revolution, as he and fellow patriots strove for liberty, Washington became increasingly conscious of the contradiction between this struggle and the system of slavery. By the time of his presidency, he seems to have believed that slavery was wrong and against the principles of the new nation.
As President, Washington did not lead a public fight against slavery, however, because he believed it would tear the new nation apart. Abolition had many opponents, especially in the South. Washington seems to have feared that if he took such a public stand, the southern states would withdraw from the Union (something they would do seventy years later, leading to the Civil War). He had worked too hard to build the country to risk tearing it apart.
Privately, however, Washington could -- and did -- lead by example. In his will, he arranged for all of the slaves he owned to be freed after the death of his wife, Martha. He also left instructions for the continued care and education of some of his former slaves, support and training for all of the children until they came of age, and continuing support for the elderly.
Washington's habit of extensive recordkeeping, such as his 1799 Slave Census, has helped Mount Vernon's historians research and interpret slave life on his five farms. Extensive archaeological excavation and research at Mount Vernon has also furthered our understanding of the large slave community that lived here.
In 1778, while Washington was at war, he wrote to his manager at Mount Vernon that he wished to sell his slaves and "to get quit of negroes", since maintaining a large (and increasingly elderly) slave population was no longer economically efficient. Washington could not legally sell the "dower slaves", however, and because these slaves had long intermarried with his own slaves, he could not sell his slaves without breaking up families, something which he had resolved not to do. Confronted with this dilemma, his plan to divest himself of slaves was dropped.
(I suggest people try to think "outside of the box" when it comes to George Washington.
George Washington should not be shunned or hidden. His treatment of slaves was honorable. Washington should not be dishonored by putting a box around his statue.
According to government statistics, 72 percent of African-American children are born to unmarried Mothers. The girls don't think they have to get married.
This is shameful and is something that should be addressed by the MLK observance. The MLK observance should think "out of the box" and work to free modern day African-American children that are born into the "slavery" of the mindset that its expected or normal for a son or daughter to be born illegitimate.) Story Reports
"While we can blame the government, history, slavery, poverty and a slew of other reasons for the state of our communities and the issues our children face, ultimately, the responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of the parent in the mirror. And that's exactly where it should be." Kirsten West Savali
72 Percent of African-American Children Born to Unwed Mothers
After the war, Washington often privately expressed a dislike of the institution of slavery. In 1786, he wrote to a friend that "I never mean ... to possess another slave by purchase; it being among my first wishes to see some plan adopted, by which slavery in this Country may be abolished by slow, sure and imperceptible degrees." To another friend he wrote that "there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see some plan adopted for the abolition" of slavery. He expressed moral support for plans by his friend the Marquis de Lafayette to emancipate slaves and resettle them elsewhere, but he did not assist him in the effort.
MLK was "caught in the act" by MLK closest friend Ralph Abernathy, King's hand-picked successor as president of S.C.L.C. from 1968 to 1976 The Rev Ralph David Abernathy should be honored on MLK day not MLK. If anybody should be "boxed" in it should be a statue of MLK.