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Sophia Stills '21

Land of the (Un)Free: Slavery and Memory at the President’s House

In 2002, historical research revealed that Philadelphia’s new Liberty Bell Pavilion was to be built at the former location of President George Washington’s Philadelphia home—a site where America’s first President held nine slaves in bondage through a legal loophole. A public controversy soon erupted over the paradoxical coexistence of liberty and slavery during America’s founding, the importance of recognizing slavery’s centrality in American history, and the inclusion of Black Americans within the country’s commemorative landscape. The controversy ultimately illustrates the contested nature of slavery’s legacy and the challenges inherent in public memory construction.