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Slavery at Mount Vernon: Grappling with Our Founding’s Complex Story Viewing Guide

Part I: Viewing Guide

As you view the video, answer the following questions.

  1. Approximately how many enslaved men, women, and children lived in the Greenhouse Slave Quarters during Washington’s time?
  2. How did the Greenhouse serve as a boundary on Mansion House Farm?
  3. Who provided the majority of the written evidence about the lives of the enslaved at Mt. Vernon?
  4. How is the Greenhouse Slave Quarters atypical or unusual as a home for enslaved people?
  5. What is “nightwalking”?
  6. Choose one artifact from either the men or women’s side of the Slave Quarters and explain how it provides a glimpse into the lives of the enslaved people who lived here.
  7. In the video, Jeremy talks about a “culture of fear.” What is the role of fear in maintaining the system of slavery? Why is this difficult to show to visitors who come to Mount Vernon?

Part II: Questions for Discussion

After you view the video, discuss the following.

  1. In the video, Mary referenced principles of liberty and equality. How would you define these terms?
  2. Imagine you are giving a tour of the Greenhouse Slave Quarters. What would you tell people about this structure?
  3. How can visiting historical locations like Mount Vernon help us wrestle with the complex nature of history?
  4. Why is it important to address slavery when discussing the Constitution?
  5. What questions would you like to ask about this topic? What do you want to know more about?

Answer Key