African Americans in the Early Republic, 1789-1831

African Americans in the Early Republic, 1789-1831

African Americans in the Early Republic, 1789-1831

African Americans in the Early Republic, 1789-1831

Excerpt

On the sixteenth of April in 1789, George Washington set out from his home in Mount Vernon, Virginia, for New York City, the temporary seat of government, where he was to be inaugurated two weeks later as the first president of the United States. Washington would soon become the executive leader of the first nation on earth whose foundation rested on the ideals of liberty: of that fact he and most Americans were justly proud. Washington's trip northward was triumphant. Crowds cheered him along the way, and wherever he stopped joyful citizens staged celebrations. Many of New York's thirty thousand people turned out to greet the president-elect upon his arrival. The inauguration that followed was stately, with large crowds witnessing the events.

Traveling ahead of Washington to make arrangements for his trip was the president-elect's favorite slave, an African American named William Lee. Joining Lee in New York to begin serving the president and Mrs. Washington in their residence on Cherry Street were six other slaves from Mount Vernon. The seven African Americans helped bring order to the house, assisted Washington in his preparations for the inauguration, and thereafter helped ready the Washingtons and the residence for visits from dignitaries. Anyone attending the inauguration and catching sight of the president's slaves, or anyone simply looking about and noticing some of the city's two thousand other enslaved African-American men and women, would have recognized quickly that the blessings of liberty . . .

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