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Enslaved Persons of African Descent in the President's House

savage
National Gallery of Art
The Washington Family by Edward Savage, 1789-1796, oil on canvas. The black man at the right rear of the painting has traditionally been identified as Billy Lee, Washington's personal servant. However, there is some evidence that it may be Christopher Sheels (based on age and stature), one of the nine in Philadelphia and nephew of Billy Lee.

General Information

Slave Quarters at the President's House

Biographies

What Became of the Nine?

NameWhat became of him/her?
Oney JudgeEscaped to freedom from Philadelphia, late May or June 1796. Died in Greenland, New Hampshire, February 25, 1848.
MollReturned to Mount Vernon 1797; working at Mount Vernon 1799.*
AustinDied December 20, 1794 in Harford, Maryland. Presumed to be buried at Mount Vernon.
HerculesEscaped to freedom from Mount Vernon on February 22, 1797, George Washington's 65th birthday. There is a reported sighting of him in New York City in November 1801.
RichmondReturned to Mount Vernon 1791; working at Mount Vernon 1799.* Presumed escape attempt in November 1796.
GilesReturned to Mount Vernon 1791, never returning to Philadelphia. Not listed in 1799 Mount Vernon Slave Census.
ParisReturned to Mount Vernon 1791; died at Mount Vernon, late September or October 1794.
Christopher SheelsReturned to Mount Vernon 1791; working at Mount Vernon 1799.* Presumed escape attempt in September 1799.
Joe (Richardson)Working at Mount Vernon 1799.*

*Source: 1799 Mount Vernon Slave Census.

List of Slaves at Mount Vernon

There are two slave censuses from Mount Vernon, one from 1786 and the other from 1799. The 1799 census lists 124 Washington slaves, 153 dowers, and 40 rented from a neighbor; adding up to 317. Historians later discovered that Washington counted one of his slaves twice, which is why the total was reduced to 316.

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