Skip to main content

tv   Arlington House Tour  CSPAN  August 25, 2016 9:00pm-9:49pm EDT

9:00 pm
changes, plus how can we reduce our impact on carbon emissions as the -- as being rolled out. >> we're going to take a final phone call from stephanie all the way in hawaii. hi, stephanie, you're our last caller tonight. what's on your mind? >> caller: yes, hi, thank you for taking my call and happy birthday to the parks service. >> thank you very much. >> caller: i'm really proud to be an american for that reason. there is a national monument that has a long hawaiian name, i'm afraid i can't pronounce it. they are talking about expanding area, i wondered if anybody knew where that stood. and thank you for taking my call. >> i'm not familiar with, you know, any proposal, as i said before, i've been sort of out of the loop, as it were, but,
9:01 pm
obviously, as mentioned earlier, all parks have a website and they'd more than welcome an inquiry from you in terms of what their acquisition needs or their interests might be. and i'm positive that you will get a response in a timely fashion. >> a special program tonight on the anniversary of the parks service, produced by american history tv, part of the c-span family of television content. and we're delighted to introduce you to what we do here at american history tv. you can find us all weekend, every weekend, with visits to historic sites, lectures in history, tours of battlefields, all first-person history and nothing else really quite like it on television. we hope if you like it tonight you'll find american history tv on c-span3 on the weekends and also on the web. as we close out here tonight, i really want to thank your colleagues here at arlington house for the hospitality in allowing us to bring this equipment in and move the furniture around.
9:02 pm
what's the closing thought you want to leave people with about the role of the parks service, this is for both of you, in american life? >> we may be here for a few more hours just to talk about that. but the parks are special places. they are places not only to enjoy in terms of play, but also places in which we can learn. we can develop a greater respect for ourselves, for our neighbors, our friends, and a respect for the other species that inhabit this fragile place that we call earth. so parks are contributed to us becoming better people and a more united nation. >> and i'm not nearly as eloquent as mr. stanton, but i would say something we talk time and time again about these days is relevance, and for the parks service to survive another century, we need to be relevant -- >> make that connection.
9:03 pm
>> make a connection to people to come and visit. please, come and visit your national parks and tell us how we can be relevant to you. if there are stories you think we're not telling, tell us about it and get involved, volunteer and make the parks relevant to your life, continue the dialogue about what it's like to be an american and these american stories and that will guarantee we're around for another hundred years. >> you have a final thought? >> in closing, i want to salute you and c-span and the listening audience that's participated and your outstanding staff and i would only salute you in the words of our first director, steven mather, who observed she's a better citizen with a keener appreciation of the privilege of living here in the united states, who has toured the national parks. we become better citizens. >> well, thanks to both of you for giving us your time tonight. thank you for you in the audience for watching, your questions, and as i mentioned the conversation continues on facebook. if you'd like to talk to others
9:04 pm
who enjoy and officiate the national park service, and happy centennial to the national park service. a reminder that this program will air tonight at 10:00 p.m. eastern time once again in its entirety, and right after we're finished here, you're going to see a full tour of arlington house just as if you were here yourselves. thanks for being with us. each week american artifacts takes you to museums and historic places to show what artifacts reveal about american history. next, national park service ranger matthew penrod leads a tour of arlington house. the robert e. lee memorial, the 19th century mansion situated on the hill above president john f. kennedy kennedy's grave in arlington national cemetery. today it is the most visited
9:05 pm
historic home in the national park service system, which is marking its centennial this year. arlington house will close at the end of 2016 for a year-long restoration made possible by a $12.35 million gift from philanthropist david rubenstein. >> my name is matt penrod. i'm a parks service ranger here at arlington house, the robert e. lee memorial. i've been here many years. sometimes joke that i've spent more time in this house than robert e. lee did, although it was his home for about 30 years. arlington house is perhaps the most unique place in the entire national park service, and perhaps in regards to historic houses, one of the most in the entire country. because what we have here is a place that truly represents the entire history of this country, from its earliest founding of
9:06 pm
the original co naal colonists to virginia and america in the early 1600s, through the revolutionary period, leaders of the american revolution, signers of the declaration of independence, they are represented here by the family who built and own this house. and it was a plantation. it was a working plantation. so, representing in many ways one of the uglier aspects of american history, and that is slavery. it played a crucial role in the american civil war. home of general robert e. lee prior to the war during the period he was a u.s. army officer for 32 years. he developed and became the great soldier that would lead him to become this extremely 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
9:07 pm
robert e. lee is a man who waged war against the united states government. who led an army against the united states government. that army, arguably, it's believed, 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. so it really represents the way the country developed in its earliest years, how it divided, and then how the national somehow was able to come back together after that war, because this home is a memorial to honor lee not for what he did during the war, but what he did afterwards. when he became a leader in the south and promoting reunion, and reconciliation. healing of the country.
9:08 pm
telling southerners it was their duty to restore peace and harmony to the nation, and also 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. and so lee became a very important voice and influence in the clause of healing and rebuilding this country, so in 1925, congress made this home a memorial to honor, just three years after the lincoln memorial was dedicated. and then memorial bridge and avenue were built across the river to symbolize the reunion of the country. and what adds to the -- what adds to the extraordinary nature of the story is that this house
9:09 pm
was originally built as a monument, a memorial, a personal memorial, to honor the memory of george washington, the father of the country, owned by washington's step grandson, george washington park custess, and in many ways this could be looked at as our first washington monument. first memorial built to honor any president, first structure of any kind built to honor any man like that, and so this house had a fame all to itself, apart from robert e. lee, but then lee married into that family, became part of the washington family, and so when the coming of the civil war happened, and lee was put in a very painful and difficult place in which he had to choose sides, president lincoln wanted him to command federal troops. it was offered to him, but he couldn't fight a war against virginia, his native state, his
9:10 pm
home and family, as he characterized it. and so he was caught in this terrible dilemma, and 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. government 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 that role he played as a confederate general. so, what you're seeing here at arlington house is primarily the original structure. built between 1802 and 1818. we calculate 80%, 85% of the physical structure is intact, but it's been here for about 200 years. and it requires a great deal of care and effort to maintain,
9:11 pm
restore, conserve it. and it's been many years since a major restoration effort has been undertaken here. there's going to be a lot of work done over the next year and a half to two years to bring this place back to its glory, so at the end of this year the house will shut down for approximately a year while this restoration work is done. so why don't we go inside the house, take a look, see how it is today, give you an idea of what it is and the work we'll be doing, and you can come see us 2018, and see how much of an improvement has been made to the restoration of this great mansion. so follow me inside. so here we are in the main hallway at arlington house. the center hall was designed to
9:12 pm
impress. remembering that george washington wanted this house to be a memorial to george washington. he had the house designed to be like a gallery, to be very monumental, to impress what he thought would be some of the most important people of the country who would visit. and over the years, presidents, congressmen, and senators would visit him here at arlington house to learn more about george washington. the original architect of the mansion was a man named george hadfield, whom george washington personally invited to america from england to do design work on the nation's capitol, the capitol building. so george hadfield was one of the most prominent architects of his day, so this house has a great history in architecture in the history of this country, as well. it's not just because of people who lived here and the events that took place here, but the structure itself had great meaning. and it's one of those places --
9:13 pm
sometimes a historic house or a structure takes on a meaning because of the events that happen or the people who live there, but this house was built to be consequential. so, it has that history to it, as well. and robert e. lee married into that. in this parlor on june 30th, 1831, under the archway where you can see the uniform and the dress on display. 24-year-old lieutenant robert e. lee of the u.s. army married 22-year-old maryann that randolph custess, the only surviving child of the owner, sweetheart of robert e. lee's, as well as great granddaughter of martha washington, but this wasn't the only wedding that took place here, in fact, it wasn't even the first wedding. the first wedding took place here ten years earlier when a woman named mariah carter
9:14 pm
married charles cyfax. what made that wedding important in the history of this place is mariah and charles were both enslaved here and mariah was believed to have been the daughter of the master, and so she was an enslaved woman from some type of relationship that existed in which george washington part custess fathered a child by one of the enslaved woman here, a woman named ariana koetter. and this is forcing us in many ways to re-examine how we interpret the history of arlington, because here we have the story of slavery, and in this place, represents the founding ideals of this country, this home built to honor george washington and 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
9:15 pm
family relationship. and george washington part custess, in essence, had two daughters. one was white, was his heiress, she married robert e. lee, one was enslaved. both great granddaughters of martha washington. so in that regard, george washington part custess as a representative of the first first family of the country, who spent 55 years of his life promoting and celebrating that, was, in essence, also representative of another aspect of the history of this country, and the simple truth of it is, the first family of this country was biracial. so we recently re-enacted that wedding with family representing both charles and mariah.
9:16 pm
also enslaved, selena norris in the house and gray who worked in the mansion, as well. that was averarranged and the wedding took place in this parlor and serena gray would live in one of the two historic slave quarters that we maintain, that still exist and are going to be restored as part of this big project, as well. now, you can see this room is somewhat empty of furnishings and that's representative of the fact that right now we are in the process of removing furnishings and artifacts from display so by the end of the year we will begin this restoration project, but all the furnishings have to be removed before we can do that work. so you can see the boxes and work and preparation being made. as we walk down the hallway, you also see empty places on the walls, there are numerous --
9:17 pm
historically there are numerous portraits in the hallway, family portraits, historic ones of washington and other members of the family. however, some of those have been removed, but at the same time, there are holes in our collection. and our new restoration project, through this generous donation by david rubenstein, will, in fact, allow us to acquire more original artifacts and reproductions of original artifacts, including paintings, so that we can represent the true appearance of this house as it was when the lees and custis families lived here. there will be examples we will leave, like this. this bare patch of plaster on the wall. this plaster was -- it's not just something we chose to leave exposed for no good reason. actually, what we discovered
9:18 pm
during a recent, about seven years ago, a restoration project where we stripped down paint down to the plaster and repainted different rooms, we found writing, we found graff i graffiti. and some of this writing, it's very hard to see, it's very faint on the walls, but this, we think, even pre-dates the civil war. some of the graffiti we have in the house is civil war related left by union soldiers. some of this pre-dates the civil war and goes back, perhaps, to the earliest construction of the house. and so it's something that we're leaving exposed because it is representative of that history and we want to be able to preserve it and perhaps in the future find a way of even interpreting it. we're not exactly sure what the writing says, so it is a mystery that is going to be left to us to solve in the future. this is the family dining room. it was one of a couple rooms that were used as dining rooms
9:19 pm
in the mansion, and what makes this room so significant is the large number of original furnishings that do exist, including the china that is on the dining room table. the blue and white plates you see at the front, cincinnati china, that belonged to george washington. and other china we believe belonged to martha washington, and it's representative of what was here historically. george washington parke custis when he moved here brought with him as much as the washington possessions he possibly could collect, inheriting things from martha washington, as well as purchasing things from estate sales, he gathered 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 house to be a public place, a kind of museum, a personal museum, and these were items that people could use. you could have come and dined with the custises and lees,
9:20 pm
perhaps, and eaten off the same china george and martha washington had eaten off of. today, we have a number of washington items still in our collection, but the civil war threatened them. and at the beginning of the civil war as robert e. lee left here, mrs. lee was worried that union soldiers would take over and steal many items from the house, she removed most of the what she considered to be the most precious washington family heirlooms, including the bed that george washington died in and a number of other pieces, and later her family donated those things, many of those things at least, to mt. vernon, to washington and lee university, and there are also items in the smithsonian, so that you can visit those places and also get a better understanding of what was here historically. the back hall was george
9:21 pm
washington parke custis's hunting hall, his trophy hall. as a true gentleman of the day, his two favorite pastimes were horse racing and hunting. but 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 and american themes and was a pioneer in the idea of creating an american form of theater. but he was a painter, and an amateur. he was taught, but he loved to paint, and he painted images up here of scenes from hunts at arlington of hounds chasing game, but his favorite, his favorite subject by far was his step grandfather george washington, and painting great images of the american revolution, which we will see in one of the other rooms. now, as we step through this
9:22 pm
doorway, we're stepping into a room called the white parlor. 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. in fact, he wrote letters to his wife in the mid 1850s in which he described how he wanted the room to be painted white, both because he said it was such a dark house, it would help brighten things, but he also complained that it was -- the fact that the family was at that time a bit short on money. they were struggling a little bit financially, and so he said it was also the cheapest color. so it was painted white. and it definitely did brighten the house. he bought much of the red velvet furniture you see in this room for the home up at west point when he was superintendent of the u.s. military academy. he designed the marble mantles that you see here with oak
9:23 pm
leaves and acorns, actually celebrating, honoring, the great oak forest that stood at arlington historically. before the civil war, more than half of the estate was wooded with virgin oak. only 12 acres of it still exist. the rest swallowed up by the national cemetery and ft. meyer behind, but some of it exists and is part of the robert e. lee memorial to be preserved as long as nature itself can preserve it. and here we also have the one portrait of robert e. lee in the mansion. and it shows him as a young army officer. it's not the version of robert e. lee most people expect. of course, most people think of robert e. lee as the great confederate general. but what arlington house represents is his life before the civil war, his family life, that he married his life here, six of their seven children were born here, that this was the
9:24 pm
place he sacrificed to make the choice he did at the beginning of the civil war to side with virginia, to fight for a larger concept of what he considered to be his home and family. and that was virginia. but it came with a very knowing sacrifice, and 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 to his country 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. and, in fact, it was louis crampton, a congressman from saginaw, michigan, whose father had served in the union army during the war and fought against robert e. lee's army here in virginia, who first proposed the legislation that would dedicate this house as a
9:25 pm
memorial to robert e. lee. such was the respect given to him even by many of his enemies. as we come into here, this is the morning room. this is one of the oldest rooms in the house. also one of the most significant. it was built in 1804, and it was 1811 that robert e. lee and his family first visited arlington. he was 4. and mary custis, his future wife, was just 2 1/2. so we like to think this might have been the room they first met as children, as young children. there is a story and family tradition that suggests they were childhood sweethearts growing up. that as teenagers they became romantic, but he suffered a number of tragedies in his early life. his father died when he was quite young, his mother died right after he graduated from
9:26 pm
west point. he didn't inherit wealth. he didn't inherit property, and so he had in many ways to take life very seriously from a young age and devote himself to a career in the army. and so he went to west point, graduated second in his class, but following that, he turned his attention once again to ms. mary custis here at arlington and courted her and married her and became a part of this family. now, this room then in many ways, perhaps, 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. and 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.
9:27 pm
they were both passionate artists. she did two of the paintings that you see next to the window over here to the left. but here's also where you see some of george washington parke custis' important revolutionary war scenes. all of these paintings done to represent washington as the great hero of the revolution, the indispensable man. you see him on his white horse at the front of the army. literally within just a few feet of the lines of the british or germans in this case, at the battle of trenton. these paintings glorified washington, and that was the purpose of custis' life. but it wasn't just to glorify 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
9:28 pm
deeply divided between the followers of thomas jefferson who believed in limited national government, states rights, the right to leave the union, the right of nullification, the right of armed rebellion against the national government, and those the followers of george washington, who believed the opposite of all those things. washington, a true nationalist, who believed this was a perpetual union. well, when custis started building this house in 1802, the man who was president of the united states, thomas jefferson, so some believe custis built this house on this prominent hill in this greek revival fashion out front almost as a way of thumbing his nose at jefferson across the river. well, that may be something of an exaggeration, but he definitely meant this place to make a political statement. he declared this house a federalist house, this was to represent all the beliefs and ideals of george washington, and
9:29 pm
that included, once again, the idea that this nation would exist forever. and that no state had a right to leave it. so how ironic is it that that man's daughter would marry 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? and it was in the room just through that doorway that robert e. lee made that choice. he made that decision to side with virginia, to leave the union. he was a u.s. army officer, again, 32 years. prior to his commission 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
9:30 pm
union, he could not fight a war against home and family. that's how he stated it. 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, but one of the aspects of that decision that made it so consequential was that lee was first offered command of federal troops. that president lincoln wanted him to command what would become the union army. the army that would cross the river, suppress rebellion in virginia, and save the union. and 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
9:31 pm
lincoln's offer, the war would have been much shorter. certainly, hundreds of thousands of lives would have been spared, but at the same time, the great political change, the cultural change, social change that occurred in this country because of that war, including the abolition of slavery might not have happened, or might have happened very differently. we'll never know. it's one of those unanswerable questions, but it's very clear that 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, of course, but one thing he did know that was very clear because of that view out front, he knew the union army had to take over arlington to defend washington. arlington may have been one of the most important properties in the entire country, because whichever army controlled it the heights here at arlington controlled the fate of the nation's capital. it had to be held at all cost by
9:32 pm
the united states army. lee knew that. and so he expected when he left here two days after resigning that his family was likely to lose their home. his wife had hopes that they would be able to return here once the war was over, but by the end of that first summer, when most americans became -- became more and more aware of the fact that this war was not going to be short, it was going to be terrible, it was going to be long, it was going to be bloody, the lees became more and more resigned to the fact that they would never live in their home again. and they never did. here we are on the second floor of arlington house, where the main bedrooms are, the rooms that robert e. lee, his wife, and their seven children slept in. now, what we're doing with the mansion, as you saw downstairs
9:33 pm
and you'll see in other parts of the house, this is the way the house has appeared for decades. and this is really the legacy of a previous restoration project and restoration research that goes back 40-plus years. well, what we're doing now is, in part because the great generosity of david rubenstein, we're able to update our research. we have a new historic furnishings report that's been completed that 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. you know, we get over 500,000 visitors walk through this mansion every year.
9:34 pm
it's the most visited historic house in the national park service. it's in the top five most historic or visited historic houses of any kind in the country. and so we get a large number of people who walk through here, but we have to think, what are they experiencing? what are they getting out of their visit? are they getting anything? do they just take a quick walk through the house and then get to the end and don't even know what they saw? you know, i've talked to some visitors who have gone through the mansion and ask me in the backyard, okay, so who lived here again? so, are we missing an opportunity to interpret this house properly? or at least more fully? and we answered that, yes, we decided that we are going to create new exhibits and a new experience here for visitors. so we're going to have panels
9:35 pm
explaining history, delving into important aspects of the history like we've just been speaking of. and we're also 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, out of fashion, if you want to call it that. these steel gates we have in the doors almost make it look like a jail cells. we have, unfortunately, we have fans, we have electric fans running in the house because currently our climate control system isn't functioning the way it's supposed to function. so that will be repaired. that will be updated. and that will be made more efficient so that we can properly preserve the historic artifacts in the house through climate control. we're going to be installing new
9:36 pm
lighting, museum quality lighting, so that you don't see these standing lamps all over the place that were essentially purchased from target and home depot. that's what we had to work with. we're going to have a new security system in the house, because we have many, many, many priceless historic artifacts. i pointed out the china that longed to george washington. we have many other items, as well, that need protection and need, you know, protection at all costs. and so we're going to have a brand new and updated security system installed. new electrical wiring. it's surprising to think that in this house some of the wiring goes back, again, half a century. that's a little frightening when you think about it. you know, you fear a fire, a great fear here at arlington
9:37 pm
house. we have never had a fire of any significance. not during the historic period and not during the period in which the national park service has maintained it, but nobody wants to be part of that group of people who in some way, shape, or form allow this house to burn down. so, you know, fire suppression has been added into the house, and so this house is going to be brought up to all current museum standards. and that will also allow us to borrow priceless historic artifacts that were once here at arlington house. all part of bringing this house back to its -- not only its authentic appearance, but in a sense its glory, because arlington house was a special place during its historic
9:38 pm
period. and it was a tourist attraction during its day, a very noteworthy structure, and it impressed people when they visited. well, we want to impress people today. above us is the attic, arlington house was built as a two-story structure in the center, the two wings were one story, and it does have an attic, but the attic was never used as a living space as the custises or lees, never finished. during the summer too hot and oppressive, during the winter too cold. it just wasn't suitable as a living space, so it was a storage area and mrs. lee actually stored many items up there. at the beginning of the war, items that were kind of ransa 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,
9:39 pm
tourist attraction, you could say, for the soldiers and government officials and others who came to washington during the war. they saw the u.s. flag flying over the famous general lee's home, they wanted to come up and see it and take items from it as souvenirs. many pieces of furnishings were stolen during the civil war as souvenirs, but some soldiers even left their identities, their names behind in the form of graffiti. there's not a lot of graffiti in the house compared to some other southern mansions that you may have read about, but 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. well, let's take a quick walk over to robert e. lee's bedroom, talk there for a moment. this was the room robert e. lee and his wife mary shared through
9:40 pm
their 30 years of married life here at arlington. this was in many ways a very typical army marriage. a lot of military people identify with this very easily. robert e. lee was often away from here. there was many separations from his family. they didn't call it getting deployed at the time, but he was often sent to far away places in this country and kept separated from his family for months. often only coming back to arlington during the times of the holiday seasons, things of that nature. there were times when his family, his wife and children, 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. but there are far more separations than lee himself liked. he felt very forlorned about that, very homesick through much
9:41 pm
of his career and even thought about quitting the army at different times so he could spend more time with his family. it was part of the frustration he felt during the beginning of 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 he learned virginia left the union, he spent a long, sleepless night in this room soul searching, making that final, final decision and before going down to his office on the first floor and writing his letter of resignation. behind the bed, the original bed, believed to be the bed he and his wife shared, a room, a small dressing room where mrs. lee gave birth to six of the seven children. when you start thinking about reasons this place was special
9:42 pm
to the lees, don't have to look much further than that. they went to great trouble to make sure that happened, made arlington that much more important to them and that much more painful to sacrifice. we're now in the summer kitchen of the north slave quarters. we're very fortunate to have two original slave quarters that have been preserved here at arlington house, and they are part of the robert e. lee memorial. so there's a great deal of irony to that, and one of the concerns that we have had for many years now is how to best interpret those two seemingly conflicting aspects of the history of this site to meld them together to form a more complete and accurate interpretation of the history here at arlington house.
9:43 pm
for one, we want to remind people arlington house, first and 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, again, specifically honors him for his role in promoting the union once the war was over. his period, of course, his experience, his leadership as a confederate general is recognized, but we don't want people who 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 inclusive as possible, and, of course, that means telling the full story of the enslaved people here at arlington.
9:44 pm
arlington national cemetery was once a plantation. a lot of visitors are surprised by that. over 4 million visitors tour arlington national cemetery every year, and very few it seems are aware of that aspect of the history before they get here. and to see how this place changed and evolved from a plantation to the national cemetery during the war and what it is now, is a great part of the story here that we interpret daily. well, slavery is a big part of that. and for visitors to washington, and we get it, so many of the same tourists have visited the lincoln memorial, the jefferson memorial, the washington monuments, this may be the one time they have a chance to actually step inside a historic slave quarters as a part of their visit to washington. and to learn about this painful
9:45 pm
aspect of our country's history. so, part of our restoration project that is upcoming is to enhance and expand our interpretation of african-american history here. now that means fully restoring both of the historic slave quarters, creating new exhibits to tell the story, and to examine from all of its many angles. because one of the things that's remarkable about the history of slavery here at arlington is that there are so many different facets to it. it's not just a simple story. and nobody should ever be mistaken in thinking slavery, the story of slavery, was a simple story. it certainly was not. but here at arlington, you have it in all of its complexities.
9:46 pm
all right, you have the fact that george washington parke custis inherited people from the estate of martha washington. came here from mt. vernon. breaking up families in the process, as george washington freed the people he owned. so many of the people originally came here had come from mt. vernon. they created families, with family identities. at mt. vernon, george washington owned about 200 slaves, but when he made a record of them, he did not record family names. it was as if they did not even have family identities. here at arlington, they did. they gained family identities. and when george washington parke custis died in 1857, he put it in his will that all of the people that he owned, nearly 200, would be set free. and we have a list, we have an inventory, of those people, and
9:47 pm
we have them by families. so it's an extraordinary evolution that took place in a very short period of time it seems. so you have these large families here, and those families would find their freedom during the war, they'd gain their freedom, and then would move off of the estate and move out into the local community. many of them setting up homes in neighborhoods nearby, and we have this legacy in which this community at arlington, arlington county, are connected. because of this movement of these newly freed people. at arlington there was also a freed man's village that was created after the war by the u.s. government where over the course of 35 years, thousands of former slaves would live and find freedom, work, and protection, and many of them once the village was closed in
9:48 pm
1900 would also move out to the community and are actually four local churches that originated at freed man's village, and we are busy developing relationships and working with descendents of the enslaved people here at arlington to get their story, to do more research, and to include their per perspectives in the interpretation of this site. we at arlington house are very excited that our recent donation and our ability to restore the mansion and create new exhibits is not only possible, but that 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


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on