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By Sudie Hofmann At the time of George Washington's death, the Washingtons enslaved 318 people of African descent at Mount Vernon, according to the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association. But you would not know it from the main tour, nor from the brochure. In fact, most visitors, including schoolchildren, can spend hours admiring the Mount Vernon mansion, fine furniture, and manicured lawns without considering that it was all paid for with forced labor.
By Sudie Hofmann
I recently came across a flier in an old backpack of my daughter’s: Wanted: Committee Chairs for this Spring’s Cinco de Mayo All School Celebration. The flier was replete with cultural props including a sombrero, cactus tree, donkey, taco, maracas, and chili peppers. Seeing this again brought back the moment when, years earlier, my daughter had handed the flier to me, and I’d thought, “Oh, no.” The local K-6 elementary school’s Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) was sponsoring a stereotypical Mexican American event. There were no Chicana/o students, parents, or staff members who I was aware of in the school community and I was concerned about the event’s authenticity. I presumed the PTSA meant well, and was attempting to provide a multicultural experience for students and families, but it seemed they were likely to get it wrong.