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Samuel “Sambo” Anderson was a slave owned by George Washington who remained loyal to the end. On February 20, 1845, Anderson died at the approximate age of 100.

Anderson’s birth date, like many enslaved Africans, is not known. According to accounts and other lore, Anderson, who hailed from the region now known as Guinea, claimed to be of royal heritage prior to being enslaved. Washington purchased Anderson in the 1750s, enlisting him among several craftsmen to work at his Mount Vernon, Va. home.

Anderson married another slave on the grounds, Agnes, and the pair went on to have six children although he legally couldn’t live with the family. Still, Anderson cared for them as best he could and lived nearby. When Washington died in 1799, many Mount Vernon slaves went free except for Agnes, who was considered the property of Washington’s wife.

Working diligently to purchase their freedom, Anderson earned enough to free a daughter, her children, and other relatives. In the 1830s, Anderson and several of his family members returned to Mount Vernon to build a new tomb for his former master.

Although accounts vary, the derogatory term “sambo” does not stem from Anderson and was simply a nickname.


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