Sarah Johnson’s Mount Vernon
New Stories from an Old American Shrine
The home of our first president has come to symbolize the ideals of our nation: freedom for all, national solidarity, and universal democracy. Mount Vernon is a place where the memories of George Washington and the era of America’s birth are carefully preserved and re-created for the nearly one million tourists who visit it every year. But behind the familiar stories lies a history that visitors never hear. Sarah Johnson’s Mount Vernon recounts the experience of the hundreds of African Americans who are forgotten in Mount Vernon’s narrative.
Historian and archival sleuth Scott E. Casper recovers the remarkable history of former slave Sarah Johnson, who spent more than fifty years at Mount Vernon, before and after emancipation. Through her life and the lives of her family and friends, Casper provides an intimate picture of Mount Vernon’s operation during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, years that are rarely part of its story. Working for the Washington heirs and then the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, these African Americans played an essential part in creating the legacy of Mount Vernon as an American shrine. Their lives and contributions have long been lost to history and erased from memory. Casper restores them both, and in so doing adds a new layer of significance to America’s most popular historical estate.