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Source: Philadelphia Daily News
Date: October 11, 2005
Byline: Robert M. Morris, Westtown

Letter: Here comes Slavery Mall

NEW YORK has its newly discredited Freedom Center. The Smithsonian had its Enola Gay debacle. Philadelphia is heading in the same direction, right into "Slavery Mall."

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., has announced a federal grant of about $3.6 million to fund the President's House project on Independence Mall, the result of years of work by many, including myself.

I am a former board member of the Independence Hall Association. Years ago, I proposed this initiative as a way to honor George Washington, John Adams and my ancestor, Robert Morris, who owned the house.

Mayor Street has the power to assemble a high-caliber nonpartisan group and create an exploration of the executive branch (currently missing from Independence Mall). It could examine the origins of our economic freedom and its role in defeating slavery and liberating millions around the world today.

Will this golden opportunity be wasted by bringing shame on George Washington because he was an 18th-century southern planter who brought nine house slaves from Virginia so they could help his wife?

Please let us remember the people who cooked Washington's breakfast, made the beds and groomed the horses. But don't expect to hear much about President Adams because he did not keep slaves, or about the "financier of the revolution." Robert Morris, who had a French chef. Or about the indentured servants from Europe. Why?

For all their talk about the "importance of place," the project overseers are trying to put a memorial to enslaved Africans where Washington defined the presidency. A better place for that kind of memorial would be inside the spacious Liberty Bell Pavilion, at Monticello, or on the D.C. mall.

A good example of such a memorial is in Valley Forge. It honors the Americans of African descent who fought alongside Washington. Converting the President's House into a memorial for enslaved Africans would be misleading and a dishonest opportunistic overreaching.


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