“This is a very nice story about relationships, progression of thought of humankind, processes of culture through time, devotion and loyalty. As a homeschooler of African American children, studying American history has often left my son with a negative taste in his mouth and mind. This is a refreshing approach to discuss actual historical documented events besides the vicious and brutal depiction of the usual books written about this era.”
Sherita Blackburn, Home School Mother
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Curriculum Sample - Chapter 1
In chapter 1, we meet William Lee as an older man, and he invites us to sit down in the kitchen at Mount Vernon while he tells the story of his life as a servant to the United States’ first president, George Washington.
By the time William Lee went to live at Mount Vernon, Washington’s mansion in Virginia, Washington had already earned the rank of colonel for his leadership and bravery in the French and Indian War, a war fought between the British and the French, with various Native American Indian tribes fighting for both sides. He retired the colonelcy in 1758 and married the widow Martha Dandridge Custis in January 1759, also taking in her two young children from her previous marriage. With the war behind him, Washington entered the world of politics and was elected as a member of the House of Burgesses, where he and his neighbors helped govern the colony of Virginia. He is also a land surveyor.
In 1768, Colonel George Washington purchases the sixteen-year-old slave William Lee for 61 pounds and 15 shillings, the British currency used by the colonials at the time, from the Lee family of Westmoreland County, Virginia. William Lee, who is of African descent, was born in Virginia into slavery around 1752 and continued to use the Lee name for the duration of his life. William and his brother Frank move to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s plantation overlooking the Potomack River, near Alexandria, Virginia.
Will went to work directly in the Washingtons’ mansion, instead of the field. There, he was given a beautiful uniform that enabled him to stand out from all the other slaves who labored in the field. Colonel Washington appoints Lee to be his valet de chamber, another way of saying personal servant. This means he is given more freedom than the other slaves and has more access to Washington than most people.
British Colonial America is subject to English rule at this time. In the early 1770s, Washington and Lee go foxhunting and take trips to Williamsburg, the colonial capital of Virginia, to attend the general assembly. Lee also accompanies Washington on trips to the Capitol building, the governor’s mansion, and the evening balls.
- Why did William Lee go to live with George Washington?
William Lee was born into slavery, and his owners, the Lee family, sold him to Washington.
- What is Mount Vernon and where is it located?
Mount Vernon is George Washington’s estate. It is located in Virginia.
- What is Colonial America like in the early 1770s?
Colonial America is part of England. It is subject to King George III and his parliament.
- What were William Lee’s responsibilities at Mount Vernon?
He worked in the mansion and was Washington’s personal assistant. He went foxhunting, collected the mail, and went on trips with Washington.
- How do you think William Lee felt when he got to Mount Vernon?
Factors to consider: his age, that he was separated from his family, the fact his brother was with him, how he felt about Washington, what Mount Vernon was like.
- How do you think Lee felt about being Washington’s slave?
Factors to consider: no freedom, he worked in the mansion instead of the field, he had nice clothes to wear, he had it better off than some slaves, he worked directly for the war hero Washington, he had many responsibilities.
- What do you think Washington was like as a master?
Factors to consider: he was orderly, he worked very hard and expected others to do so as well, he was very busy.