Conversations at the Washington Library

Conversations at the Washington Library

Conversations at the Washington Library is the premier podcast about George Washington and his Early American world. Join host Jim Ambuske as he talks with scholars, digital humanists, librarians, and other guests about Washington's era and the way we tell stories about the past.

Episodes

November 17, 2021 42 min

On this week's show, we bring you Episode 1 of Intertwined: The Enslaved Community at George Washington's Mount Vernon. Entitled "Passages," it features the life of Sambo Anderson, who was just a boy when he was captured in West Africa, survived the Middle Passage, and purchased by an ambitious George Washington sometime in the late 1760s. During his years of enslavement at Mount Vernon, Anderson became a carpenter,...

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Intertwined tells the story of the more than 577 people enslaved by George and Martha Washington at Mount Vernon. Told through the biographies of Sambo Anderson, Davy Gray, William Lee, Kate, Ona Judge, Nancy Carter Quander, Edmund Parker, Caroline Branham, and the Washingtons, this eight-part podcast series explores the lives and labors of Mount Vernon’s enslaved community, and how we interpret slavery at the historic site today.

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Although you might not realize it, in the years before the American Revolution, Nova Scotia was all the rage. People concocted various schemes to settle it, and the British government saw it as one of the keys to its new vision of empire after the Seven Years' War. Nova Scotia has a fascinating, often troubled history. Indigenous peoples and European powers competed for the land, and access to the colony’s lucrative fishing gro...

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In May 1796, an enslaved woman named Ona Judge fled the presidential household in Philadelphia and escaped to freedom on a ship headed for New Hampshire. Judge’s successful flight was one of many such escapes by the sea in the 18th and 19th centuries. Enslaved people boarded ships docked in ports great and small and used coastal water ways and the ocean as highways to freedom. We often learn about the Underground Railroad in school...

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To kick off Season 6, we bring you the story of America’s Favorite Fighting Frenchmen. In 1777, the Marquis de Lafayette sailed from France with a commission as a major general in the Continental Army. Unlike many other European soldiers of fortune, Lafayette paid his own way and had no expectation that he would be placed at the head of American forces. We best remember Lafayette for his service in the American Revolution, his clos...
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In the eighteenth century, the Myaamia people inhabited what are now parts of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. More commonly known in English as the Miami, the Myaamia figure prominently in the early history of the United States, especially in the 1790s, when war chief Mihšihkinaahkwa (or Little Turtle) co-led an alliance of Miami and Shawnee warriors that defeated successive American armies in the Ohio valley before meeting...
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Consuls are essential to American foreign relations. Although they may not be as flashy or as powerful as an Ambassador like Thomas Jefferson or John Quincy Adams, they’re often the go-to people when an American gets in trouble abroad or when a trade deal needs to get done. Consuls operate in cities and towns throughout the world, helping to advance American interests and maintain good relations with their host countries, all while...
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If you pull any decent history book off your shelf right now, odds are that it’s filled with quotes from letters, diaries, or account books that help the author tell her story and provide the evidence for her interpretation of the past. It’s almost always the case that the quotation you read in a book is just one snippet of a much longer document. Perhaps, for example, Catharine Greene’s letters to her husband Nathanael offer the r...
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On September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key began composing "The Star-Spangled Banner after witnessing the British attack on Fort McHenry. Of all the things he could have done after seeing that flag, why did Key write a song?  And how did his new composition fit into a much longer history of music as a form of political persuasion in the Early Republic?

On today’s episode, Dr. Billy Coleman joins us explore the power of music in t...

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In 1784, King Charles III of Spain sent George Washington a token of his esteem. Knowing that Washington had long sought a Spanish donkey for his Mount Vernon estate, the king permitted a jack to be exported to the new United States. Washington named the donkey Royal Gift in recognition of its royal origin, and the donkey became somewhat of a minor celebrity when he disembarked from his ship in 1785. As it turns out, Spanish jacks ...
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The American Revolution dismembered a protestant empire. In the years during and after the war, states disestablished their churches, old and new denominations flourished, and Americans enshrined religious freedom into their state and federal constitutions.

But claiming religious freedom in a democracy was not the same as enjoying it. In the republic’s early years, Joseph Smith, who founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day ...

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In the eighteenth century, death stalked early Americans like a predator hunting its prey. In Virginia, as in other colonies, death made children orphans and wives widows, making a precarious existence all that much more challenging. For the Virginia elite, death also created opportunities for widows and widowers alike to protect their interests, their property, and their social standing through advantageous re-marriages. But the p...
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If you’ve taken part in a part in a protest recently, perhaps you carried a sign, waved a flag, or worn a special hat.

But if you had grievances in the American Revolution or early Republic, you might have helped raise a Liberty Pole.

Now, you may ask yourself, what good is a large wooden pole gonna do about my high taxes?

And you may ask yourself, do I really want to lift this heavy thing?

Turns out, as the days went by in the lat...

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Plymouth Plantation occupies a powerful place in American national memory. Think of the First Thanksgiving in 1621; Englishmen escaping religious persecution; the rock marking the alleged spot where settlers first landed; and of course the Mayflower Compact.

In the wake of the American Revolution, citizens of the new nation looked to the Compact for the origins of American Democracy. In Plymouth’s history, many Americans saw the hi...

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Maryland wasn’t so merry for some Americans during the Revolutionary War, especially if you happened to side with the king. Professing fealty to the Crown, for whatever reason or motivation, cost many Maryland colonists their property, and sometimes their lives.

But for other Maryland Loyalists, like enslaved people, loyalism was an opportunity to achieve a different kind of American independence, or to turn ideas about class and p...

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Virginia was home to many of the most famous rebels like George Washington during the American Revolution, but it was also a den of Tories who remained loyal to the British king. Loyalists in all the colonies rejected what they called “the unnatural rebellion” and resisted Patriot forces as they tried to restore the king’s peace to British America. In Virginia, a civil war raged between white colonists, enslaved people who sought t...
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When the COVID pandemic stuck last spring, thousands of cultural heritage sites, including the Washington Library and Mount Vernon, had to find ways to help team members do work from home. That wasn’t always easy, especially as so much of our normal work requires a physical presence.

One of our solutions at the Library was to use this time to transcribe the voluminous correspondence of Harrison Dodge, Mount Vernon’s superintendent ...

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In the early years of the nineteenth century, former Virginia schoolteacher James Ogilvie embarked on a lecture tour that took the United States by storm. Born Scotland, Ogilvie became a renowned orator, packing rooms in urban Philadelphia and rural Kentucky alike. As he crisscrossed the nation, lecturing on topics that spoke to American anxieties about the fate of their young republic, Ogilvie became a major celebrity. Many Americ...
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The South Carolina State House Grounds is a landscape of monuments and memory. Since the capital moved from Charleston to Columbia in the 1780s, South Carolinians have been erecting, moving, and contesting monuments on the capitol’s grounds, using them to debate the past as they really argue about their present. Monuments and statues are the subject of great debate right now, not only in the United States, but around the world, and...
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Two weeks ago, we brought you the story of Johann Peter Oettinger, a seventeenth-century German-speaking barber-surgeon who in 1693 journeyed to Africa and the West Indies on behalf of the Brandenburg African Company. His journal from that period captures the height of German participation in the transatlantic slave trade. Today, we bring you the story of the journal itself and how two historians, Craig Koslofsky and Robert Zaugg, ...
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