>The city of Philadelphia has opened to the public an exhibit and archaeological dig in the middle of Center City, showing the remains of the original “President’s House” and the slaves’ quarters, where 9 people lived.

Mayor Nutter and key historians and activists stood before a granite wall incised with the names of the nine as the official ribbon was cut at 12:45 p.m. Immediately, a great throng of people pressed forward into the commemorative exhibition, just north of the Liberty Bell Center on Independence Mall.

It was here that Washington held Oney Judge, Hercules, Austin, Richmond, Moll, Paris, Giles, Joe, and Christopher Sheels more than two centuries ago. Yet to many in the audience, including community activists who pushed hard for a memorial to those held in bondage, these nine speak loudly now to the contradictions, indignities, denials, and avoidance that still riddle race relations in the United States.

Avoidance, indeed. Because as schoolchildren we learned absolutely nothing about George Washington’s slaveholding habits. Slaves were down in the south, on Tara-like plantations, and not in the north, and certainly not in the fair, Quaker-founded, City Of Brotherly Love!  I doubt that information was being deliberately held from us — probably our teachers had never learned these things themselves. The exhibit is important as an archaeological site in itself, but more so because of this. Good work, Philly.

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