The Virginia Governors' Mansion has a seedy past.
Virginia’s governors have resided in the Executive Mansion since 1780 when the state capital was moved from Williamsburg to Richmond. The mansion is considered a National Historic Landmark, and three of the original buildings are still standing. It is the oldest occupied governor’s residence in the United States.
While the usual tour of the Executive Mansion highlights historic oil paintings, antique furniture, and grand rooms, one of the smaller, unassuming brick buildings might be easy to miss. This brick building served as the kitchen quarters for over 50 years where enslaved people served the governor and his family. Recently, Justin Reid, the director of community initiatives for Virginia Humanities (state office of the National Endowment for Humanities), started an effort to bring to light the history of the enslaved people who served Virginia's governors.
For Justin Reid, it’s a project that’s personal. While researching for the Executive Mansion project, he came across a picture of Mary Randolph Harrison, Thomas Jefferson’s first cousin, who enslaved Reid’s ancestors. Reid has gathered about 20 descendants to work on the Executive Mansion project. One descendent, Kerri Moseley-Hobbs, has ancestors who were enslaved by former Virginia Governor James Preston.
"This isn't a box to check. This is something that's integral to the story of the Executive Mansion," said Reid. "I was raised by someone who was raised by an enslaved person, so these stories are closer than we think."
To keep up-to-date with the latest projects from Virginia Humanities, be sure to visit their website.