We dedicate this space to the memory of nine people of African descent who were brought to this house by George and Martha Washington. They were known as Austin, Christopher Sheels, Giles, Hercules, Joe, Moll, Oney Judge, Paris, and Richmond. We commemorate their lives as well as those whose names and lives remain unknown to us.
These enslaved African men and women lived in this house and labored for the first president of this nation. This memorial recognizes part of a past that continues to trouble us today. It is difficult to understand how men who spoke so passionately of liberty and freedom were unable to see the contradiction, the injustice, the immorality of their actions. We cannot ignore the past; we can only honor the memory and lives of those who endured bondage in a land where freedom rings for some, not all.
George Washington enslaved hundreds of others at his farm at Mount Vernon, Virginia, including the families of these nine people. These nine experienced the wider world of Philadelphia and its emerging free African community. Of them, only Hercules and Oney Judge successfully escaped to freedom.
Please enter this space mindful of their sacrifices and those of millions of other unknown Africans and their children, who lived and died enslaved in the land of freedom. Their labor built and enriched our nation. Their struggles and those of their descendants for freedom and civil rights brought our nation closer to the its ideals embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. They should never again be forgotten.
National Park Service
City of Philadelphia