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