[Of those opposed to slavery,] George Washington belonged, with Mason and Jefferson, in the hardest category — disapproving owners. Theirs was the most difficult position to maintain, psychologically and rhetorically. It would not be maintained over the next sixty years, as southern antislavery rhetoric withered. Practically and politically, disapproving owners were in the hardest position from which to achieve their goals. How do you weaken an institution in which you and all your neighbors are enmeshed? Washington did enough, finally, to free his own slaves, which was more than many owners in his position did. Jefferson never freed all his, nor did any of the other slave-owning presidents.
Continental Army general, won the Battles of Saratoga; 1727—1806.
Slave of Thomas Jefferson; 1765—1801.
Slave of Thomas Jefferson; 1776—1830.
House slave of Thomas Jefferson; mother of at least six of his children; 1773—1836.
Lawyer, orator, Virginia governor; 1736—99.
Lawyer, architect, drafter of the Declaration of Independence, Virginia governor, diplomat, third President, founder of the University of Virginia; 1743—1826.
Personal attendant to Martha Washington; c. 1773—1848.
Slave of Thomas Jefferson, they grew up together; 1743—1800.
Diplomat to France, Continental congressman; 1740—92.
Continental Army general, formerly a British officer; 1732—82.
Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington (1996)