Philadelphia and the Countryside - Press Room

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Dec 14 2010

The President’s House Overview

This is a National Park Service/City of Philadelphia press release.

From 1790 to 1800, when the city of Philadelphia was our new nation’s capital, Presidents George Washington and John Adams lived and worked in a mansion – the President’s House – that stood roughly one block north of Independence Hall. In that house, the first two American presidents literally invented what it meant to be Chief Executive of the United States.

The mansion also held a profoundly disturbing truth. It has been documented that George Washington, who owned over 300 enslaved Africans at his Mount Vernon home, brought at least nine of these servants to Philadelphia to live and work in the President’s House. This fact creates a challenge to the notion of American liberty; while the founders of our country declared “all men are created equal,” the brutal institution of slavery was still being cultivated and maintained. It was in this very house that George Washington signed the notorious Fugitive Slave Act of 1793.

The presidential mansion is replete with stories of both achievement and infamy – the birth of a free nation and its tenacious first steps, co-existing with widely practiced, indefensible enslavement of human beings. It is worth noting that John Adams was not himself a slave owner, and his wife Abigail was an outspoken critic of slavery.

Ultimately, President’s House: Freedom and Slavery in Making a New Nation is designed with a dual purpose. The site indeed commemorates the location and importance of the original executive mansion of George Washington and John Adams – key architects of American democracy. It also tells the long-obscured story of the enslaved Africans who toiled at the house, two of whom made a remarkable escape to freedom during Washington’s presidency.

Moreover, we have a compelling obligation as a nation to illuminate the history of this house and all its inhabitants – willing and unwilling – to the fullest. What better place to tell these fascinating stories but in the Independence Mall footprint, at the very threshold of the Liberty Bell?

Contact(s):
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Dec 15 2010

President's House Opens On Independence Mall In Philadelphia

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This is a National Historical Park/City of Philadelphia press release.

The President’s House: Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation
opens today in Philadelphia after more than five years of development. The commemorative, open-air installation marks the site where the nation’s first two presidents, George Washington and John Adams, served their terms of office and began to shape the executive branch of government. However, the most compelling and controversial aspect of the site is that it pays tribute to nine documented enslaved persons of African descent who were part of the Washington household. The inclusion of the

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Dec 14 2010

The President’s House: Slavery Timeline

This is a National Park Service/City of Philadelphia press release.

1619 Enslaved Africans brought to Jamestown, Virginia.

1641 Massachusetts legally recognizes slavery.

1662 Virginia law determines status of children will be same as that of the mother.

1684 Ship Isabella brings150 enslaved Africans to Philadelphia.

1705 Virginia law determines imported servants who were not Christians in native country are slaves; slaves are chattel property, and may be disciplined or killed without penalty.

1780 Pennsylvania passes the Gradual Abolition Act prohibiting importation of enslaved Africans into the state and guarantees future children of enslaved Pennsylvania mothers will be born free but

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Dec 14 2010

The President’s House: House Timeline

This is a National Park Service/City of Philadelphia press release.

Before For hundreds of years before 1630, Algonquian peoples resided here.
1682 The city of Philadelphia founded.
1767 House built by Mary Lawrence Masters, a rich the widow of a former mayor and slaveholder.
1772 House is a wedding present to daughter Polly and slave owning Lieutenant Governor Richard Penn.
1777 Headquarters of General Sir William Howe, a slave owner and leader of British forces, during the British occupation of Philadelphia.
1778 Headquarters of slave owning Major General Benedict Arnold whose betrayal of the Revolution begins here.
1782 Financier and

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