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Finding Freedom: Deborah - George Washington’s Letter to Lund Washington

On April 30, 1781, General George Washington wrote this letter to Lund Washington, his cousin and farm manager, to express his disgust with Lund Washington’s decision to supply the British when they came to Mount Vernon earlier that month. In General Washington’s absence, Lund Washington convinced the British to spare the plantation from being destroyed by providing them with food and supplies. General Washington wrote in response, “It would have been a less painful circumstance to me, to have heard…they had burnt my House, & laid the Plantation in Ruins.” Lund Washington’s negotiation saved the property, but General Washington felt his honor had been tarnished by giving in to the enemy. The departure of 17 enslaved people, including Deborah, only worsened Washington’s embarrassment. Although the British left Washington’s plantation untouched, they burned many neighboring properties.

George Washington Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC

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Finding Freedom: Deborah - Marquis de Lafayette’s Letter to George Washington

General George Washington received this confidential letter from the Marquis de Lafayette a few weeks after a British ship sailed up the Potomac River and took supplies from Mount Vernon, Washington’s home in Virginia. Lafayette informed General Washington that several enslaved people had escaped from Mount Vernon to join the British in search of their freedom. He also noted that Lund Washington, the general’s cousin and farm manager, had boarded the enemy’s vessel and offered to provide the British with supplies to prevent Mount Vernon from being burned down. Lafayette warned General Washington that this might make his neighbors upset because they had attempted to resist the British and their homes were burned as a result. On April 30, 1781, General Washington wrote a letter to Lund Washington to criticize his cousin’s decision to give supplies to the British. General Washington felt his honor had been tarnished by giving in to the enemy.

George Washington Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC

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Finding Freedom: Deborah - “Inspection Roll of Negroes,” Book 1, Page 4

These pages are from a British Army document called the “Inspection Roll of Negroes,” written in 1783. Deborah’s name is recorded on the left side of the first page near the bottom. The second page records that she was formerly enslaved by George Washington. The “Inspection Roll of Negroes” records the roughly 3,000 formerly enslaved men and women whom the British evacuated from New York City at the end of the Revolutionary War. Most of these people, such as Deborah, settled in Canada with assistance from the British. Deborah is recorded below her husband Harry, who was enslaved to a Loyalist named Lynch. Deborah and Harry boarded the ship “Pollybound for Port Roseway (now Shelburne) in Nova Scotia, Canada.

ational Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC

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Finding Freedom: Deborah - Lund Washington’s List of Runaway Enslaved People

This handwritten list records the names of the 17 enslaved men and women who left Mount Vernon in search of their freedom with the British in 1781. The list includes 16-year-old Deborah. Lund Washington, General George Washington’s cousin and farm manager, frequently updated General Washington about Mount Vernon during the Revolutionary War, including reports of the British raid on the estate in 1781. Lund Washington’s list of enslaved people who left in 1781 records that seven people were captured and returned to Washington after the British surrender at Yorktown. Deborah escaped. 

Courtesy of Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association

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Finding Freedom: Andrew - Portrait of Major General Nathanael Greene

Andrew Ferguson served under the command of Continental Army Major General Nathanael Greene, shown in this portrait, at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse on March 15, 1781. Poorly supplied and understaffed, Major General Greene’s strategy in the winter and spring of 1781 was to harass the British Army while protecting his own regiments and militia. “We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again,” Greene wrote. “The whole country is one continuous scene of blood and slaughter.” At Guilford Courthouse, Greene’s army battled a smaller force under British General Cornwallis. Greene retreated from the field, but only after about 500 British soldiers were killed or wounded. Cornwallis and his crippled army did not pursue the Americans.

Courtesy of Independence National Historical Park

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Finding Freedom: Andrew - “Soldiers in Uniform”

This French officer’s depiction of American soldiers at the Siege of Yorktown shows a soldier of African descent from the Rhode Island Regiment of the Continental Army. During the Revolutionary War, Black and White soldiers fought alongside one another on both sides of the conflict. Historians estimate that between 4,000 and 8,000 men of African descent served in the Continental Army. In 1778, Rhode Island offered freedom to enslaved men in exchange for service. It created a regiment with privates of African and Native American ancestry, officered by White men. In 1781, the Rhode Island line was collapsed from two regiments into one integrated unit with segregated companies.

Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library

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Finding Freedom: Andrew - Gravestone

Andrew Ferguson is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Bloomington, Indiana. This stone, dedicated by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1984, marks his grave.

Photo by Rich Janzaruk, “Bloomington Herald-Times”

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Finding Freedom: Andrew - United States House of Representatives’s Response to Revolutionary War Pension Pay Increase

In 1844, Andrew Ferguson sent a petition to the United States Government to request an increase in his Revolutionary War pension payments due to the growing pain of his wartime injuries. This written record documents the denial of Ferguson’s request by the House of Representatives one year later. According to this document, Ferguson had gathered support from “several hundred” people who signed his petition. The House of Representatives denied his application because Ferguson’s petition did not include sworn testimony from people that could authenticate his claims about his military service and wounds. 

National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC

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Finding Freedom: Andrew - Record of Marriage

Andrew Ferguson married Jenny (or Jinny) Murphey in Monroe County, Indiana, in 1844. According to the 1850 United States Census for Monroe County, Jenny (listed on the census as Jane Ferguson) was born in Maryland. 

Monroe County History Center Collection, Bloomington, IN

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Finding Freedom: Andrew - United States Census, 1850

Andrew Ferguson moved to Indiana (which became a state in 1816) after the Revolutionary War. The 1850 United States Census, shown here, documents Ferguson’s residence in Monroe County. Ferguson and his wife Jane (also known as Jenny; married in 1844) are listed near the bottom of the page. “B” in the column to the right of their age and gender stands for Black, their race. Andrew Ferguson is listed as being 95 years old (or born in about 1755), but he had previously claimed that he was born in about 1765. 

National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC/

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