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Comparative Analysis of Mount Vernon and Gunston Hall’s Enslaved Communities
George Mason and George Washington enslaved 434 people in total on their respective plantations in Fairfax County. Despite relying on the labor of the enslaved communities at Gunston Hall and Mount Vernon only recently has information been compiled to detail the lives of these individuals. It is known that many Virginian plantations were remarkably similar to how the enslaved communities that resided there lived and worked. However, what can we learn from the differences between the enslaved communities lives at Gunston Hall and Mount Vernon plantations, and how does this reflect on the two owners?
Scholars of George Washington’s Mount Vernon tend to describe the plantation and Washington’s treatment of the enslaved living there as better than other plantations. There are primary source examples in which other white landowners describe the plantation and Washington’s treatment of the enslaved living on the plantation with some of the opinion that slaves lived much better there than on other plantations while others disagreed. How does this stand up to scrutiny? Was there a substantial improvement in the quality of life for the enslaved at Mount Vernon compared to other Virginian plantations such as Gunston Hall? What are the substantial differences between the two plantations if any?
1. Jackson T. Main, “The One Hundred” The William and Mary Quarterly 11, no. 3 (1954): 378-383.