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I remember hearing a PBS documentary make a claim that the babies of slaves on George Washington's Mount Vernon went naked in winter. I have been trying to verify, or even get a good citation, for this fact. (Any web reference to conditions of slaves owned by Founding Fathers also of interest).

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it can probably be said quite safely that they were on average no better or worse off than any other slave in the same area. –  jwenting Jul 4 '13 at 5:28
"Uncle Tom's Cabin" claimed there were a wide variety of levels of brutality in slave holding, not only Kentucky to Mississippi delta, but family to family. It's one thing to steal a person's labor, quite another to choose how you'll put him up. Do they live like Indians or like concentration camp inmates? –  pterandon Jul 4 '13 at 11:41
quite likely so, but you can't use a work of fiction as a historical reference. Remember that slaves are expensive commercial resources, so overall it makes sense to keep them reasonably healthy so they can earn a good return on investment. –  jwenting Jul 4 '13 at 11:46
... Same with your car. Some car owners polish the engine block; others allow structural rust. But since there "economic incentive" to keep it running well, rust never happens. –  pterandon Jul 4 '13 at 11:49

1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The material aspects of life for slaves at Mount Vernon--things like their quarters, clothing, food--were very similar to the way things were done on other large plantations in 18th century Virginia (places like Monticello or Sabine Hall). In the case of infants, mothers at Mount Vernon were given a new blanket at the time of the birth and baby clothes of some type were provided, as well. For sources on slave life at Mount Vernon, we suggest the following:

Delano, Marfe Ferguson. Master George's People: George Washington, His Slaves, and His Revolutionary Transformation. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2013.

The George Washington Digital Encyclopedia: http://www.mountvernon.org/encyclopedia#Slavery

Schwarz, Philip J., editor. Slavery at the Home of George Washington. Mount Vernon, VA: The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, 2001.

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Welcome Mary! And thanks for providing useful sources too. –  kmlawson Jul 5 '13 at 21:12

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