Commemorating Liberty and Slavery in Philadelphia

Yesterday, the New York Times ran reviewed the new exhibit, “The President’s House: Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation,” which opens today. The exhibit treats the Philadelphia house where George Washington and John Adams lived as presidents during the 1790s. (The U.S. had several capital cities in its early years before the compromise was reached that created the District of Columbia.)

As you can read, the exhibit has had a convoluted history, much of it centering on how best to remember the slaves who were present in the president’s mansion. It’s hard to please everyone, and in trying to do so, often everyone is dissatisfied. That seems to be the case here, which is unfortunate, since the site offers a convenient opportunity to juxtapose the creation of a new government founded on liberty and freedom by men who held other men and women in bondage.

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