During Black History Month, George Washington’s Freeing His Slaves is Not History
By Dennis Jamison —-February 23, 2021
Monday was George Washington’s birthday, although it was not celebrated in any real way whether on February 22, or as part of “Presidents’ Day” February 15, which is the actual federal holiday to honor the nation’s first POTUS. Ironically, in a purely technical glitch, the nation does not truly honor George Washington’s birthday or honor George Washington on “Presidents’ Day.” His birthday is all but forgotten, but even on the third Monday of February, actually, legally known as “George Washington’s birthday,” per the federal legislation that created it, the public does not know the day is meant to only honor Washington. It has been contorted into a general sense that that the Monday holiday is to honor all of the U.S. Presidents. That would be a misperception.
Yet, this is an entire period of history in which there are many misperceptions that pass for truth. Contrary to popular perception, there is no such federal holiday as “President’s Day.” On June 28, 1968, the Congress of the United States debated and signed into law the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The original intent behind the legislation was to increase the quantity of three-day weekends for all federal employees. When the Uniform Monday Holiday Act took effect on January 1, 1971, its purpose was to move traditional holidays celebrated throughout the year to fall on Monday dates. The holidays affected included Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Veteran’s Day, in addition to the annual remembrance of Washington’s Birthday. If it seems confusing, it is confusing.
Few Americans have a clue that George Washington took bold action to ensure his slaves would be set free as a provision of his will after he died. In reality, the fact that both Washington’s birthday and Lincoln’s birthday fall within Black History Month provides a great opportunity to teach American young people that both of these presidents in their time freed slaves. Especially, it could be viewed as an obvious teaching opportunity to help American young people learn that not all of the Founding Fathers were just a bunch of old white men who did not give a damn about freeing the slaves.
Yet, this would not be tolerated in such a corrupt culture of political correctness and within a political climate that encourages the embrace of false narratives, false history, and false doctrines, such information would be heresy to the intellectual elitists. Sadly, the real history of our nation is not acceptable or tolerated to contradict the narratives today that are part fact and part fiction – narratives fashioned after a fabricated ideology that was designed to destroy and dominate decent people—people in the world who simply want to be left alone to live their lives, and to make a living for themselves and their families, and to live in a decent and civil society.
Certainly, the struggles of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln do not mean much to the “revolutionaries” of today. The truth of Washington’s freeing his slaves is not worthy of consideration by the Left and by those followers of the historian, Howard Zinn, who use history as a weapon to marginalize the Founders. A good example is a fairly recent book (2017), by Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Never Caught, the Story of Ona Judge: George and Martha Washington’s Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away. Dunbar relates the story, admittedly pieced together in fragments, to not only honor the life of a young woman desperately seeking freedom, but to denigrate and defame the former president of the United States, George Washington based upon twentieth century values.
Dunbar’s narrative, is a good story of an individual’s quest for freedom, but it is told from a twenty-first century perspective using lenses forged over time by those very brave and brilliant people who dared challenge with their lives the oppression of slavery under the name of tyranny. The easily painted illusion that our values were the values of those English colonists in the 1700s exposes either intellectual elitism or a disingenuous spirit behind the guise of scholarly appraisal. Usually, the intentions of a skillful author of any work will show up in the comments of the readers. Dunbar’s narrative feeds those who use history as a weapon to marginalize the Founders. Thus, the truth of Washington’s freeing his slaves is not worthy of consideration by Dunbar as it does not appear to serve her purpose of marginalization. Washington suffers the assassination of his character through thousands of knives from those who would use history as a weapon.
Yet, Washington will never know how this corrupt generation views him unless he is watching from heaven. It may matter not, as he had already suffered the indignities of those in his own time who criticized and condemned him for various actions he took or did not take while president. But, perhaps one of the ways in which Washington could escape some of the most scathing criticism he would ever face would be to die before he had to face it. That criticism would come from his own Virginia countrymen. Why? Well, it was because George Washington freed all of his slaves. Of course, he had to do it as a condition of his last will and testament. Was that considered in Dunbar’s book? Not really. In fact, the fact that the courageous slave, Ona Judge, did not legally belong to George or to Martha Washington did not matter in the story. And for a professor of history, that fact should have mattered. But, there were other sins of omission as well.
The reality of George Washington’s slave-owning past is widely understood today, and most people understand that it was a condition of that period of time in our country’s history. However, most people do not realize that slavery was a condition that had sadly existed throughout human history and was a condition that existed all over the planet. It was to say the least, ingrained in human civilization for thousands of years. Yet, the New York Times and their ‘involvement’ with the “1619 Project” also paints an illusion that slavery was invented in the United States. The first false notion is that the United States existed in 1619, and the second false notion was that slavery existed for several thousands of years before the U.S.A. became a nation. It was a hard human habit to break. Yet the U.S.A. abolished slavery.
One needs to ask a few legitimate questions: What did Washington have to gain by freeing his slaves after he was dead and gone? Why did he care? The reality is that he did care! Yet, the legacy he was trying to pass on, was severely criticized by his fellow Virginians and most of the southern slave owners. However, according to Joseph Ellis in “Founding Brothers,” George Washington’s “action on this score as usual, spoke louder than words, for they suggested an obligation beyond the grave to assist former slaves in the transition to freedom.” The reality of George Washington’s freeing his slaves was revolutionary for his day. Yet, that is not important to those who want to use history as a weapon, like the New York Times. It is now a habit of many who teach U.S. history to young students in American schools. To ignore the fact that Washington freed the slaves he legally had the right to set free, is not only unfair, it is intellectually dishonest.