George Washington is a problem for George Washington University, according to the Washington Post. For years, the university in the nation’s capital has struggled with the shadow cast by President Washington’s ownership of slaves. In 2020 university officials began investigating the school’s sports teams’ name, the Colonials, because of the “ways colonists ravaged communities of color.” Last month “Colonials” disappeared. This spring, the Washington Post published an op-ed by Caleb Francois, a senior at the school, insisting that the university deal with “systemic racism, institutional inequality and white supremacy” by dropping the Washington name completely and renaming the university for Frederick Douglass.
George Washington certainly did own slaves. In addition to the 10 he inherited from his father, he accumulated another 65 through outright purchase over the years. When he married Martha Dandridge Custis in 1759, she brought another 84 slaves to the household at Mount Vernon. By 1786 the slaves numbered 216. In 1799, the last year of his life, Washington owned 317 men, women and children. Even in the years Washington served as the first president, he kept at least eight slaves in his home in the first capitals, New York and Philadelphia.