Henry Washington

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Henry Washington
Died 1800 (aged?)
Sierra Leone
Resting place Sierra Leone
Nationality American, Canadian, Sierra Leonean
Citizenship Canadian, Sierra Leonean
Occupation slave, soldier, politician, colonizer
Spouse(s) Jenny Washington
Military career
Allegiance United Kingdom
Rank sergeant
Unit Black Company of Pioneers
Battles/wars American Revolutionary War

Harry Washington was a one-time African-American slave of the future first president of the United States, George Washington. Transported as a slave to North America, he was bought by Washington in 1763 to work on a major project, to help in draining the Great Dismal Swamp of southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina.[1][2] He was living and working in the stables at Mount Vernon, caring for George Washington’s horses.[2]

Early life[edit]

Harry Washington was a saltwater slave from West Africa purchased from a deceased estate in 1763 to be part of George Washington's workforce in the Great Dismal Swamp. He later went to work on one of the farms in Mount Vernon, Virginia Colony.[3] Henry Washington from Mount Vernon had taken refuge in New York[4] in 1771.[1] In 1776, Henry Washington fled again to join royal Virginia governor Lord Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment of freed slaves.[2]

American Revolutionary War[edit]

Moving into New York in the late 1776, Harry Washington served, as corporal in the Black Loyalist, Black Pioneers attached to a British artillery unit,[1] a British forces under the Governor of Virginia Lord Dunmore's fleet. Harry Washington was a Black Loyalist and one of the 3,000 Black Americans who were evacuated to Nova Scotia at the end of the American War of Independence and part of the first group of immigrants to what eventually became Sierra Leone. Once Sir Guy Carleton's officials put him on the list for evacuation in the "Register of Negroes", he stated his age as forty-three and said that he had fled Mount Vernon in 1776, much earlier than 1781 with the slaves on the Savage.[4] Under General Sir Guy Carleton's policy, Henry Washington took a British ship to Nova Scotia (as did two other former Mount Vernon slaves, a man and a woman) and from there continued to Sierra Leone, where he planned to begin a farm making use of the scientific farming techniques he learned at Mount Vernon.[4] In 1800 Washington was among several hundred settlers who rose up in a brief rebellion against white rule there.[4] The precipitating issue was one familiar from the American Revolution: taxes.[4] The settlers were required by the Sierra Leone Company, which ran the colony for the British government, to pay taxes, or quitrents, for the use of their land; the land itself remained the property of the company.[4] The settlers formed a provisional government and wrote up a set of laws, which they nailed to the office door of a company administrator.[4] The company responded by sending a corps of recently arrived Jamaican blacks against the rebels. In the trials that followed the defeat of the rebellion, Henry Washington was among the rebels sentenced to banishment to another location in Sierra Leone, where he became one of the two leaders of a new settlement[4] He is listed as leaving New York in the Book of Negroes, where he is incorrectly listed with the name Henry. He is called Harry in all other documents.[5]

Later life[edit]

He then spent several years, in Birchtown, Canada, (the largest free African-American city in North America), where he married Jenny, where Washington began to plan for their future. He and his wife joined the 1,192 black colonists who migrated to Sierra Leone, West Africa.[6]


Harry Washington was one of those involved in a rebellion, against the colonial authorities, in Sierra Leone Colony, in 1800 and was exiled to the Bullom Shore, where he subsequently died.[7] His descendants and those of other African Americans make up a portion of the Sierra Leone Creole people.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Black Loyalist, Harry Washington, University of Sydney
  2. ^ a b c BlackPast.org.
  3. ^ Papers of George Washington: Colonial Series, vol. 7, pp. 300, 314-15, 442-3, 516.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Henry Wiencek, An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003.
  5. ^ "The Book of Negroes", Black Loyalist.
  6. ^ List of Blacks who gave their name for Sierra Leone" in National Archives of the UK, CO217/63.
  7. ^ Cassandra Pybus, "Washington's Revolution, Harry that is not George" Journal of Atlantic Studies, Vol. 3, No. 2, 2006, 183–198.