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Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: November 28, 2009
Byline: Brad Bender

Letter: Slaves not the only story at the President's House

In response to Monday's article regarding the lagging progress on the President's House Memorial, the focus should be on the house itself, and not slavery in general or the slaves who inhabited a portion of the grounds for one of the two terms in which it was the official residence of our nation's chief executive. In fact, during President John Adams' time in residence, no slaves were quartered there.

Notwithstanding these historical facts, some "activist organizations" now seek to hijack the memorial to serve their agenda to generally memorialize slavery in Philadelphia. Their tactics are pressuring the design of the President's House Memorial to be less historically accurate and more contentious than this national project should be. And I find it particularly galling that the mayor's office and the National Park Service are being complicit in such political correctness.

The slaves who lived and worked in the President's House are but one part of the story of that residence. While Washington's slaves definitely should be memorialized, they should be kept in proportion to the deep historical significance of the house itself in the creation of our great nation; the two concepts are not mutually exclusive. If the citizens of Philadelphia also wish to memorialize the city's role in slavery, such a memorial should be separate from the President's House Memorial. Indeed, the hallowed ground for such a project would seem to be Penn's Landing, where the slave trade thrived. Such a memorial would be a key addition to any waterfront development, allowing the city to connect its established historical district to yet another piece of its deep history.

 

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