Historian Craig Steven Wilder, author of Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities, spoke at Washington College in 2017. Asked by a student in the audience how we might go about studying our own connections to slavery, Wilder replied, simply tell the truth.

This project represents our efforts to do just that.


The Hidden History of Enslavement at Washington College

At Washington College we hear a lot about our benefactor George Washington, and our founder the Reverend William Smith. But what about Primus, the boy Smith claimed as his property in Maryland, then uprooted from his home when Smith returned to Pennsylvania? Or Charlotte, the slave of Visitors and Governors Treasurer Joseph Wickes, who was hired out to serve President Timothy Clowes? What of Harriet Shephard, enslaved by Board member George W. T. Perkins, who escaped with her five children, and told Philadelphia Underground Railroad workers that she had not been “used kind”? Or Jim, Harriet, Emory, and Juliana, four children under the age of fifteen, advertised for sale to pay their master’s debt to the College in 1845?

The Team

Since January, 2018, a rotating team of undergraduate student researchers have been working with Professor of History Dr. Carol Wilson to uncover the hidden history of enslavement at Washington College, to tell the stories of the enslaved people who made the College’s survival possible.