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tv   Arlington House Tour  CSPAN  August 21, 2016 5:59pm-6:49pm EDT

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, you understand the story better when you are standing in the place where that happened. there is something intangible in these places that you can feel the history resonating and being in these places now. to mark the centennial of the national park service we are featuring historic sites and national parks from tour. check out our website two were. -- cities tour. louisiana on q&a, state university history professor and historian nancy isenberg discusses her book "white trash: the 400 year untold story of class in america." >> they were poor white ghettos
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in places like indianapolis, chicago. they were described in the same derogatory way as poor blacks who were living in the city. that is part of our history that we don't talk about. we don't ruin -- want to face of to how important class is. >> tonight at 8:00 on q&a. artifactsek american take you to museum and is stored places to learn what artifacts reveal about american history. next, national park service ranger matthew penrod leads a tour of arlington house, the robert e. lee memorial. today it is the most visited his stork home and the national park service system, which is marking its centennial this year.
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arlington house will close at the end of 2016 for a year-long restoration made possible by a $12.35 million gift from berlin the best david rubenstein -- full interest david rubenstein. mr. penrod: i'm a park service ranger here it the robert e. lee memorial. i have been here many years. i sometimes joke is more time in this house then robert e. lee did. it was his home for about 30 years. perhaps theuse is most unique place in the entire national park service. perhaps in regards to historic houses, one of the most in the entire country. what we have here is a place that truly represents the entire history of this country. from its earliest founding with the original colonists who came to virginia and america in the early 1600s, through the
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revolutionary period, leaders of the american revolution, signers of the declaration of independence are represented by the family to build. this house -- built this house. and it was a working plantation. representing in many ways one of the uglier aspects of american history and that is slavery. he played a crucial role in the american civil war. , general robert e. lee prior to the war when he was a u.s. army officer for 32 years. he developed and became the great soldier that would lead extremelyome this consequential man during the american civil war. but this is where the story takes a dramatic twist because this home is a national memorial to honor robert e. lee, but robert e. lee is a man who waste war against the united states government.
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who led an army against the united states government. believed to have killed more u.s. soldiers than any other single enemy army in the history of this country. and yet here this house is a national memorial to honor him, dedicated by congress in 1925. represents the way the country developed in his earliest years, how they divided, and then how the nation somehow was able to come back together after that war. this home is a memorial to honor lee not for what it during the war -- for what he did during the war, but what he did afterwards. when he was promoting reunion and reconciliation, the healing of the country. telling southerners it was their duty to restore peace and harmony to the nation and also
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to once again obey and respect the authority of the national government. that government across the river here that the southern states had just waged a terrible war against. robert e. lee was telling them that is now their legitimate government again and it was their duty to respect that. lee became an important voice and influence in the cause of healing and rebuilding this country. a 1925, congress made this memorial to honor just three years after the lincoln memorial was dedicated. and memorial bridge and avenue was built across the river to symbolize the reunion of the country. what adds to the extraordinary nature of the story is that this house was originally built as a monument, a memorial, a personal memorial to honor george
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washington. the father of the country. grandson,ashington's george washington custis. in many ways this has to be looked at as our nation's first washington monument, the first memorial built to honor any president. the first structure of any kind built to honor a man like that. this house had a shame to itself apart from -- fame to itself apart from robert e. lee. lee married into the family, became part of the washington family. when the coming of the civil war put in aand lee was very painful and difficult place to which he had to choose sides, president lincoln wanted him to commit federal troops. it was offered to him. he could not fight a war against virginia, his native state. his home and family, as he characterized it. he was caught in this terrible
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dilemma. ultimately his choice would have a massive impact on the course of the civil war in american history that would follow. it would also lead to the u.s. taking this home, this plantation away from his family to punish him and creating arlington national cemetery as both a place to honor the dead, but also a form of revenge or retribution against lee for the role he played as a confederate general. what you are seeing here at arlington house is primarily the original structure built between 1802 and 1818. we calculate maybe 85% of the physical structure is intact. it has been here for about 200 years. it requires a great deal of care and effort to maintain, restore, and conserve it. it has been many years since a major restoration effort has been undertaken here.
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there will be a lot of work done over the next year and a half to two years to bring this place back to its glory. at the end of this year the house will shut down for approximately a year while this restoration work is done. why don't we go inside the house and take a look, see how it is today. ise you an idea of what it and the work we will be doing. you can come see us in 2018 and see how much of an improvement has been made to the restoration of this great mansion. follow me inside. here we are in the main hallway at arlington house. the center hall was designed to impress. remembering the george washington parke custis wanted this house to be a memorial to
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george washington, he had the house design to be like a gallery. to be very monumental. to impress what he thought would be some of the most important people in the country. over the years presidents, congressmen and senators would visit arlington house to learn more about george washington. the regional architect -- original architect was named george hadfield, to george washington personally invited to america from england to do design work on the nation's capital building. george hadfield was one of the most prominent architects. of the day this house has a architecture and in the history of this country as well. it is not just because of the people who live here in the events that took place here, of the structure itself a great meaning. it is one of those places, sometimes a house or structure take on a meeting because of the events that happened there and
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the people who lived there. this house was built to be consequential. it has that history to it as well. thatt e. lee married into in this parlor on june 30, 1831. under the archway or you can see the uniform and address on display, 24-year-old led -- lieutenant robert e. lee mary 22-year-old mary anna randolph custis, the only surviving child, the owner, the heiress to the property. as well as a great-granddaughter of martha washington. this wasn't the only wedding that took place here. he wasn't even the first wedding. the first wedding took place here 10 years earlier when a woman named mariah carter married charles siphax. what made that important in the history of this place is that
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mariah and charles were both enslaved here and mariah was believed to have been the daughter of the master. woman fromenslaved some kind of relationship that existed, which george washington custis fathered a child but one of his enslaved women. a woman named ariana carter. this was forcing us in many ways to re-examine how we interpret the history of arlington. here we have the story of slavery and this place represents the founding ideals of this country. this home built to honor george washington and to celebrate the values and beliefs of the father of the country. the house itself built by slaves, but then you have the family as well. the family relationship. and george washington custis in essence had two daughters.
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one was white, his heiress. she married robert e. lee. one was enslaved. granddaughters of martha washington. in that regard george washington parke custis as a representative of the first first family of the country is spent 55 years of his life promoting and celebrating that was in essence also representative of another aspect of the history of this country. family simple truth is of this country was biracial. that we recently reenacted that wedding with descendents of that family in attendance, representing both charles and mariah. there was another wedding that took place here. that was the wedding of selena norton and thorton gray, also enslaved. selena worked in the house and
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thorton worked in the house as well. this wedding took place in this parlor. selena gray in her family would live in one of the two historic slave quarters that we maintain and are going to be restored as part of this project as well. you can see this room is somewhat empty of furnishings and that is representative of the fact that right now we are in the process of removing furnishings and artifacts on display, so by the end of the year we will begin the restoration project. all the furnishings have to be removed before we can do that work. you can see the boxes and plates and preparations being made. as we walked down the hallway you also see empty places on the walls. there were numerous portraits .anging in this hallway
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however some of those have been removed but at the same time there are holes in the collection. army restoration project through this generous donation by david toenstein will allow us acquire more original artifacts including paintings so we can represent the true appearance of lee's ande when the custis'lives here. this bare patch of plaster on the wall. this plaster is not just something we chose to leave exposed for no good reason. but we discovered during a recent, about seven years ago, a restoration project will be stripped down the paint to the
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plaster and repainted different rooms, we found writing and graffiti. some of this writing, is very faint on the walls, but this we think predates the civil war. some of the graffiti we have in the house to civil war related, left fight union soldiers. some of this predates the civil war goes back perhaps to the earliest construction of the house. is something we are leaving exposed because it is representative of that history and we want to be able to reserve it and perhaps in the future find a way of even interpreting it. we are not exactly sure what the writer -- writing says. it is a mystery that is going to be left us to solve in the future. this is the family dining room. it was one of a couple of rooms used as a dining room in the mansion. what makes this room so significant is the large number of original furnishings that do
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exist, including china on the dining room table. the blue-and-white plates you see at the front, the cincinnati china that the long george washington. other china we believed belonged to martha washington. is representative of what was here historically. george washington parke custis brought with him as much of the washington family possessions as he possibly could collect. inheriting things for martha washington as well as purchasing things from the state sales, together together what he called his washington treasury. he built this house to house those items in and to exhibit them to the public. he wanted this has to be a public place, a kind of museum. these were items that people could use. and dined -- you could have come and dined with the custis' and eat not the same china george and martha washington would've eaten off
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of. we have another -- a number of washington items in the collection, of the civil war threatened. at the beginning of the civil war and robert e. lee last year, they were worried union soldiers would take over and steel items from the house. she removed most of what you consider to be the most precious washington family heirlooms, including the bed george washington died in a number of other pieces. later her family donated those things, many of those things at least to mount vernon, to washington university, and there are items in the smithsonian. you can visit those places and also get a better understanding of always here historically. -- of what was here historically. backhaul -- back hall was george washington custis' hunting home. his two favorite pastimes were
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horse racing and hunting. he was also a great artist. when i say a great artist, perhaps not a fine artist, but a passionate artist. he devoted his life to creative pursuits. he wrote and produced musical plays with american themes and was a pioneer in the idea of creating an american form of theater. he was a painter and dynamics are. you look -- an an amateur. he painted images of hearts -- hunts and hounds chasing game. this favorite subject by far was his stepgrandfather george washington. and painting great images of the american revolution which we will see later. as we step through this doorway we are stepping into a room called the white parlor.
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this was one of the last rooms of the house that was actually finished. it was largely decorated according to robert e. lee's tastes. he wrote letters to his wife in the mid-1850's in which he described how he wanted the room to be painted white. he said it was such a dark house and it would help right things. he also complained the fact of the family was at that time a bit short on money. they were struggling a little bit financially. he said it was also the cheapest color. it definitely did brighten the house. he bought much of the red velvet furniture you see in this room for the home of an west point when he was superintendent of the u.s. military academy. he designed the marble mantles you see here with oak leaves and acorns, actually celebrating and honoring the great oak forest
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that stood at arlington historically for the -- before the civil war. more than half of the state was what it. only 12 acres of it still exist. arrests followed up by the national cemetery. some of it does still exist and it is part of the robert e. lee memorial to be preserved as long as nature itself can preserve it. here we also have the one portrait of robert e. lee in the mansion. it shows him as a young army officer. is not the version of robert e. lee most people expect. most people think of robert e. lee as the great confederate general. what arlington house represents is his life before the civil. -- civil war. he married his wife here. six of his seven children were born here. this was the place he sacrificed to make the choice he did at the beginning of the civil war to side with virginia, to fight for
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a larger concept of what he considered to be his home and family, and that was virginia. it came with a very knowing sacrifice. while robert e. lee would be in the minds of many during that war and the years to follow, somewhat of a villain in history, labeled a traitor by the u.s. government and still a controversial figure, many during his lifetime, including many officers and soldiers who fought for the union respected lee in large part because of that sacrifice he was willing to make. in fact it was louis crampton, congressman from saginaw, michigan, whose father served in the war and fought against robert e. lee's army of virginia who first proposed the legislation that would dedicate this house as a memorial to robert e. lee. such was the respect given to him by many of his enemies.
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as we come into here, the morning room, one of the most significant. it was built in 1804 and it that lees in 1811 and his family first visited arlington. his future wife was just two and a half. we like to think this might in the room when they first met as children, as young children. there is a story in the family tradition that says they were childhood sweetheart strong up -- growing up. as teenagers they became romantic, but he suffered tragedies. his father died and he was young, his mother died just after he graduated from west point. he didn't inherit wealth or property.
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he had in many ways to take life very seriously from a young age. devoted himself to a career in the army. he went to west point, graduated second in his class. following that he turned his attention on miss mary custis at arlington and courted her and married her and became a part of the family. ways perhapsmany is the best room that symbolizes how he was connected to this place. almost his entire life. arlington meant something important to robert e. lee. an almost all of it revolved around the relationship he had with his wife, mary. mary and her father used this room in different ways, but especially as a painting studio. they were both passionate artists. she did two of the painting cc -- you see next to the window on
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the left. here is where you see some of george washington parke custis' themes.ionary war all painted to show george washington at the indispensable man. you see him on his white horse at the front of the army. literally within just a few feet of the line of british or germans at the battle of trenton. these paintings glorified washington. that was the purpose of custis' life. it wasn't just a glorified washington. it was also to promote washington and his beliefs, his ideals and his values. when this country was first created in the years following the american revolution it was deeply divided between the followers of thomas jefferson who believes in limited national government, states rights, the
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right to leave the union, the right of notification, the right of armed rebellion against the national government. and the followers of george washington who believe the opposite of those things. he believed this was a perpetual union. what custis started building the house in 1802 the name was president of the united states, thomas jefferson. some believe custis bill this house on this prominent hill, this greek revival fashion out front, almost as a way of thumbing his nose at jefferson across the river. that maybe something of an exaggeration, but he definitely meant this place to make a political statement. he declared this house a federalist house. this was represent all beliefs and ideals of george washington, and that included once again the idea that this nation would exist forever.
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and that no state had the right to leave it. that that man's daughter mary robert e. lee, who became the great confederate general and perhaps the man who came closest than any other man in history to destroying the nation that was created in the american revolution. it was in the room just through the doorway that robert e. lee made that choice. he made that decision to side with virginia and leave the union. he was a u.s. army officer for 32 years. he spent four years at west point. he spent his entire adult life in the service of the united states army. he loved his country and he also believed in preserving the union. but when virginia left the union he could not fight a war against home and family.
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that's what he stated in letter after letter after letter. he had great conflict in his heart and soul over making this decision, but in the end that was the only choice he felt he could make. of thethe aspects decision that made it so wasequential was that lee first offered command of federal troops. president lincoln wanted him to command what would bebome -- become the union army. the army that would cross the river to press rebuilding in virginia and say the union. lee turned it down. that decision would be in many ways a great pivotal moment in american history. many historians believe if lee had chosen to accept president lincoln's offer, the war would've been much shorter. certainly hundreds of thousands of lives would've been spared. at the same time the great
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political change, the cultural change, the social change that occurred in this country because of that war, including the abolition of slavery might not have happened, or it might have happened very differently. we will never know. it is one of those unanswerable questions. but it's very clear the decision robert e. lee made in that room had a profound influence on the course of american history. he did not know that. he had no way of predicting that. one thing he didn't know that was very clear was that the view out front, he knew the union army had to take over arlington to defend washington. arlington man and one of the most important properties in the entire country. whichever army controlled the heights here at arlington controlled the fate of the nation's capital. it had to be held at all cost by the united states army. he knew that. he expected when he left here
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two days after resigning that his family was likely to lose their home. be wife had hopes they would able to return here once the war was over. but by the end of that first summer when most americans he came -- became more and more aware of the fact that this war was not going to be short, it would be terrible, it would be long, it would be bloody, the lee's became more and more resigned to the fact they would never live in their home again, and they never did. hear he are on the second floor of arlington house where the main bedrooms are. robert e. lee, his wife, and their seven children slept here. what we are doing with the mansion, as you saw downstairs and you will see in other parts of the house, this was the way the house appeared for decades.
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this is really the legacy of a previous restoration project, and restoration research, that goes back 40 plus years. now ishat we are doing in part because of the great generosity of david rubenstein, we are able to of state -- update the research. we have a new historic furnishings report that is been completed. it has more specific and more detailed history of the way the rooms were used and the type of furnishings that existed here. we also have the ability now, the funding, to be able to make this a better visitor experience. visitorser 500,000 walking to this mission every year. it is the most visited historic house and the national park service. it is in the top five most
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historic -- visited historic houses of any kind in the country. get a large number of people who walk through here. but we have to think, one of a experiencing? one of the gaining out of their visit?are they getting anything ? did they just take a quick walk to the house and then they get to the end of the don't even know what they saw? i have talked to some visitors who have gone to the mansion and last me in the backyard, so who lived here again? are we missing an opportunity to interpret this house properly? or at least more fully? we answer that yes. we decided we will create exhibits and a new experience for visitors. panelsgoing to have explaining history, delving into important aspects of the history
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that we have just been speaking of. and we are going to be creating a more aesthetic experience. some of the items we have in the house that you may have seen are old and outdated now, out of fashion if you want to call it that. the steel gates we have on the doors almost make it look like a jail cell. we have unfortunately electric fans running in the house because currently our climate control system isn't functioning the way it is supposed to function. that will be repaired and updated. that will be made more efficient so we can properly preserve the historic artifacts in the house through climate control. we are going to be installing new lighting, museum quality lighting so you don't see the standing lamps all over the
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place that were essentially purchased from target and home depot. we are going to have new security system in the house manyse we have many, many, priceless historic artifacts. i pointed out the china that belong to george washington. we have many other items as well that need protection at all cost. will have a brand-new and updated security system installed. new electrical wiring. it is surprising to think in this house some of the wiring goes back half a century. that is a little frightening to think about. fear of fire is a great fear here in arlington house. we have never had a fire of any significance. not during the historic period
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and not during the period the national park service has maintained it. nobody wants to be a part of a group of people who in some way shape or form allowed this house to burn down. suppression will be added into the house. this house is going to be brought up to all current museum standards. that will also allow us to borrow priceless is to regard effects that were once here at arlington house. all part of breaking this house back -- bringing this house back to not only its authentic appearance, but in a sense it's glory. arlington house was a special place during its historic period. it was a tourist attraction during its day. a very noteworthy structure.
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and impressed people when they visited. we want to impress people today. above us is the attic. arlington house was built as a two-story structure in the center. it does happen attic. it was never used as a living lee's/y the custis' or it was too hot and oppressive in the summer, in the winter it was too cold. it was a storage area. mrs. lee stored many items of their at the beginning of the war -- up there at the beginning of the war. items that were ransacked by union soldiers early on, including some of the precious washington family items. union soldiers used this house throughout the war. this was not just an attraction, a forest attraction for the soldiers and government
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officials and others who came to washington during the war and saw the u.s. flag flying over the famous generally's -- general ;ee lee's home. many pieces of furnishings were stolen by union soldiers as souvenirs. some soldiers even left their identity, their names behind. there is a lot of graffiti in the house compared to other mansions. we do have some of note, both up in the attic and in other parts of the house that we uncovered in our most recent restoration. let's take a quick walk over to robert e. lee's betterment talk for a moment. -- bedroom and talk for a moment. this was the room robert e. lee and his wife shared in their married life here at arlington. this was in many ways a very typical army marriage.
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a lot of military people identify with this easily. robert e. lee was often away from here. there were many separations from his family. they didn't call it getting deployed at the time, but he was often sent to faraway places in the country and kept separated from his family for months. often only coming back to arlington during the times of the holiday season. there were times when his family traveled with him and lived in other parts of the country as well. when he was stationed in new york city or baltimore, or when he was superintendent of west point his wife and children were able to be with him. there are far more many separations than lee himself liked. he felt very forlorn about that. he even thought of quitting the army had different times so he can spend more time with his family. it was part of the frustration he felt from the beginning of
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the civil war. considering he spent most of his adult life longing to be here with his family and then having to make the decision that would cost his family their home. in many ways this was the room where he also made that final decision the night virginia with the union. he spent a long, sleepless night in this room soul-searching and making that final decision. and before going down to his office on the first or and writing his letter of resignation. behind the bed, this is the original bed, the dead lee and his wife shared, you see a small dressing room. it was the room where mrs. lee birth to six of their seven children. when you start thinking of reasons this place was so important to the lee's, you not to look much further than that. the fact that their children were born here and they went to great trouble to make sure that happened made arlington that
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much more important to them and that much more painful to sacrifice. kitchenow in the summer of the north slave quarters. we are very fortunate to have two original slave quarters that have been preserved here at arlington house. they are part of the robert e. lee memorial. a great deal of irony to that. one of the concerns we have had for many years now is how to best interpret those two seemingly conflicting aspects, of the history of this site, to know them together to form a more complete and accurate interpretation of the history here at arlington house. for one we want to remind people that arlington house versus
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foremost is a national memorial. it is not a confederate monument. it does not exist to honor robert e. lee for being a confederate general. this specifically honors him for his role in promoting reunion once the war was over. experience, his leadership as a general is recognized. people whot want visit here or think of this place to be put off by some preconception of what they might think the interpretation of this place is. we are determined to make this as comprehensive and as inclusive as possible. that means telling the full story of the enslaved people here at arlington. arlington national cemetery was a plantation. a lot of visitors are supplies
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-- surprised by that. there are 2 million visitors every year. aware ofbut seems are that aspect of the history before they get here. and to see how this plays changed and evolved from a plantation to the national cemetery, during the war and what it is now, it's a great part of the story that we interpret daily. slaver is a big part of that. for visitors to washington, and we get so many of the same tourists visit the lincoln memorial, the jefferson memorial, the washington monument, this may be the one toe they have a chance actually step inside a historic slave quarters as part of a visit to washington. painfulearn about this aspect of our country's history. part of our restoration project
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enhanceupcoming is to and expand our interpretation of african-american history. bothmeans fully restoring of the historic slave quarters, create a new exhibits to tell fromtory and to examine all of its many angles. one of the things remarkable about the history of slavery in arlington is that there are so many different facets to it. is not just a simple story. nobody should ever be mistaken in thinking that slavery and the story of slavery is a simple story. it certainly was not. here at arlington you have it in all of its complexities. you have the fact that george washington parke custis inherited people from the estate
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of martha washington. he came here from mount vernon, breaking up families in the process. george washington freed the people. many of the people originally came here came from mount vernon. they treated families, with family identities and out vernon -- identities. at mount vernon george washington owned about 200 slaves. when he made a record of them he did not record family names. it is as if they do not have family identities. here at arlington they did. they gain family identities. when george washington parke custis died in 1857 he put in his will that all the people he owned, nearly 200, would be set free. we have a list and an inventory of this people. we have them by families. it's an extraordinary evolution that took place in a short
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period of time. you have these large families here. those families would find their freedom during the war. they would gain their freedom and then would move off of the estate and move out to the local community. many of them setting up homes and neighborhoods nearby. in whichhis legacy this community at arlington, arlington county, are connected. ofause of this movement these newly freed people. at arlington there was also a friedmans village that was created during the war by the u.s. government where over the course of 35 years thousands of former slaves would live and find freedom on the work and protection. many of them, once the village was closed in 1900, would also move out to the community. there are four lurker churches
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-- local churches that originated at freedman's village. descendentsng with of the enslaved people here at arlington to get their story, to do more research, and to include their perspectives in the interpretation of this site. house are very donationhat our recent and ability to restore the mansion and create new exhibits is not only possible, but it coincides with the centennial of the national park service. it gives us an opportunity to examine and re-examine what this place meant over the last several decades since the national park service first took it over in 1933. and what it means moving into the future. toa country we always need
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examine and re-examine our history in order to decide where we want to go forward. arlington house is an amazing place to be able to do that. so we can examine the meaning of the civil war. we can examine the meaning of the life of robert e. lee, his family, the impact his decision made on history, allies of the enslaved people here, the consequences of that war. surrounding this mansion, arlington cemetery was created both as a means to honor the dead and as a way of gaining revenge for justice perhaps, if you want to call it that, against robert e. lee. view the as a country events of that war and its aftereffects? the period of reconstruction?
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arlington house is determined in the national park service is determined to seize the opportunity, to move forward and perhaps lead the nation here in an effort to come to terms with that period in time and to make more of it, to make something of it that can help us move as a nation and as a culture into the future. that thing here is division and reunion. well, division perhaps is easier to define. but reunion, what does that really mean? we know the country was reunited north and south, a culturally and racially in many ways this country remains divided. hereo what can be learned at arlington house, the robert e. lee memorial, that will help
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americans and people from other part of the world to examine that. examine their own beliefs and see what they can make of it moving into the future. >> you can watch this and other american artifacts programs by visiting our website at ♪ >> 100 years ago president woodrow wilson signed a bill trading the national park service. thursday we look back on the past century of these caretakers of america's natural and historic treasures. beginning at 10:00 eastern and throughout the day we taking to national park service sites across the country has recorded by c-span.
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at 7:00 eastern we are live from the national park service's most visited historical home, arlington house, the robert e. lee memorial at arlington national cemetery. join us with your phone calls as we talk with robert stanton, national park service director and the former arlington house site manager who will oversee the upcoming year-long restoration of the mansion, headquarters and grounds. thursday, the 100th anniversary of the national park service, live from arlington house at 7:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv on c-span3. > american history tv, author fergus bordewich talks about how the first congress. have james madison, george washington and a group of extraordinary man invented the government. he will read passages from his book and look at the leading men who developed the congress and the presiden i


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