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Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: January 25, 2003
Byline: Edward Lawler Jr., Plymouth Meeting

Letter: Philadelphia bondage

Two minor corrections to Lorene Cary's excellent article on slavery in Philadelphia ("Embracing our history of slavery," Jan. 5):

The slave quarters behind the President's House probably was a single 8-1/2-by-11-1/2-foot room built to house Giles, Paris and Austin, the three black men who worked in the stables. Washington's correspondence suggests that Moll and Oney Judge slept in a divided room over the kitchen with Martha Washington's grandchildren and that Hercules, Richmond and Christopher Sheels slept apart from the white servants, in a room in the attic of the main house. In the future, the site of the slave quarters will be the last thing that a visitor walks upon when approaching the main entrance to the new Liberty Bell Center.

My biographical sketches of the eight African Americans (www.ushistory.org/presidentshouse/slaves) were not written because of pressure from outside groups, but as a public service. Independence Park's preliminary report on the history and interpretation of the house had gotten the number of slaves in the presidential household wrong and misidentified three white servants as blacks. I wanted to set the record straight.

The President's House Web page is hosted and maintained by the Independence Hall Association, the congressionally recognized, citizens advisory organization for Independence Park. The IHA is not a branch of the park but an independent group of civic-minded volunteers. The Web page includes a history of the house, an archive of newspaper articles related to it, and a virtual petition calling on Independence Park to mark the footprint of the house (including its slave quarters) in the paving of the entrance plaza to the Liberty Bell Center.


Editor's note: Lawler's research established the existence of slave quarters at what was then President George Washington's home near the site planned for housing the Liberty Bell.

 

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