AP U.S. History Students Explore Mount Vernon as Primary Source for Colonial Studies

On Wednesday, Oct. 17, students in the AP U.S. History class visited George Washington's Mount Vernon, in Mt. Vernon, Virginia, as part of their study of the colonial and revolutionary periods. Teachers Chuck Goetz and Tonya Montgomery used the visit as a chance to show students that primary sources take many forms and can be analyzed in the same way as the documents students explore in class, considering historical context, purpose, point of view, and intended audience.

Students learned what 18th century life would have been like as they visited a blacksmith shop, a spinning shed, a kitchen, and a washing house near Washington's home at Mount Vernon. They also visited several sites that were used to provide food for the 300+ people who lived at Mount Vernon in 1799, including the gardens, smokehouse, wharf, and treading barn. Several students remarked throughout the day that they enjoy the conveniences of their own daily life in comparison!

Students also explored how the Washington's divided their private and public lives in their home and around their estate. Discussions about race and class were embedded throughout the day as students recognized the various roles that were filled by the enslaved people who lived at Mount Vernon and visited the reconstructed homestead of one enslaved family - Silla, Slammin' Joe, and their six children. After a day of exploration, students initiated an interesting conversation Washington's place as a hero in history, combining their knowledge of him from their class meetings in ninth grade where Mr. Connolly used General Washington as an ongoing example with their own experiences of the day. The trip will continue to enrich and inform such classroom conversations throughout the year.