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James Johnston at Claymont Court Mansion

15th December 2011

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Author James H. Johnston spoke at Claymont Court Mansion this past weekend. Claymont is one of a number of Washington family homes around Charles Town, WV. Johnston joined Walter Washington and Betsy Wells (Washington’s descendants) as part of an effort to educate and inform people of the rich history in Jefferson Country, West Virginia.

While Walter and Betsy highlighted the family history of the Washingtons in the area, Jim Johnston took a slightly different approach.

Betsy Washington Wells

Jim spoke about the Bealls, a prominent family in the area. The Beall family owned Yarrow Mamout, a slave that is the subject of Jim’s forthcoming book From Slave Ship to Harvard: Yarrow Mamout and the History of an African American Family.

Through this historical account, Jim has reconstructed a unique narrative of black struggle and achievement from paintings, photographs, books, diaries, court records, legal documents, and oral histories. From Slave Ship to Harvard traces the family from the colonial period and the American Revolution through the Civil War to Harvard and finally today.

Walter Washington

Yarrow Mamout, the first of the family in America, was an educated Muslim from Guinea. He was brought to Maryland on the slave ship Elijah and gained his freedom forty-four years later. By then, Yarrow had become so well known in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C., that he attracted the attention of the eminent American portrait painter Charles Willson Peale, who captured Yarrow’s visage in one of his paintings.

Recently, the portrait of Yarrow Mamout has been sold by the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, showing the continual impact that the past is continually brought into the present. The era of the Washingtons, Bealls, and Mamouts continues to stay with us.

For more information on the seminar, please click here.

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