My name is Matilda, and I was a slave on a beautiful plantation over 250
years ago. I lived on the island of Barbados, which is in the
Caribbean. Way back in 1750, the master of the house spoke with a British
accent. All of the slaves had been brought to Barbados from Africa by the
British. The master of the house was named Captain Crofton. He commanded James
Fort, the fort that protected Barbados from invaders. He was a kind man and
treated all of his slaves very well. I never say
him beating his slaves. However, I know that slave masters on some other plantations whipped their slaves.
The house that I lived in was very large with two stories. From the windows,
I could see the small wooden houses (called chattels) where the poor people
lived. There were many poor living in Barbados, and most of them were either
fishermen or sugarcane farmers. Yet, with all this poverty, the British
described the island as the richest spot in the world. That was because Barbados made England quite wealthy
with the sugar harvests. Barbados was also the
most populated of Britain's many colonies.
One day, the master told us that we needed to prepare the house for two very
important guests from Virginia. There were many slaves in the house, and we
worked hard dusting the furniture and setting the large dining room
table with beautiful plates. The tall water glasses
sparkled in the bright sunlight that came through the windows. The candles in
the ceiling would soon be lit, and I imagined how the room would glow in the
When the house was ready for our two guests, Captain
Crofton told us that the two gentlemen were half
brothers. Lawrence, the older guest, was sick with tuberculosis (lung disease). Since
Barbados had a good climate for lung ailments,
Lawrence wrote to Captain Crofton and asked if he and his brother George could
stay at the house.
George was nineteen years old at the time.
When I first set eyes on Lawrence and George
Washington, I was quite impressed. Lawrence's complexion was pale compared to
his younger brother. I noted that Lawrence coughed a lot and spoke with a very
raspy voice. George looked healthy, although he had a very large nose.
The dinner was a complete success. The captain told me that I would be George's servant as long
as he stayed on Barbados. Early the next day, I was told to pack
a lunch and ride in a wagon behind
George as he explored the island. As George galloped along the countryside, he noted
how well the land was cared for. He realized that not
all of the plots of soil were being planted. As I served him lunch,
I told George that those unplanted acres were actually
resting because they had recently been harvested. In
order for that land to bring forth another good crop, the Bajans allowed it to lie
dormant for several months. George hoped to own land one day and said he would remember this method for the future.
George Washington stayed in Barbados for 4 months. He visited Bridgetown often and loved the busy
streets where vegetables and
fruit markets, meat stalls, blacksmiths shops, rum houses, fish stalls, and slave
markets could be seen. A few weeks before he was to return to Virginia, a
tragedy occurred. George came down with smallpox,
which caused him severe pain and a burning fever. He recovered from this horrible, killer disease,
but it left him with a deeply pitted nose. In one
way, he was fortunate, for it gave him immunity to the
disease that would be the number one killer during the
In 1751, George said goodbye to all those who had treated him so kindly in
Barbados. George did not realize it at the time, but this would be the only
voyage he would ever take away from the future United States. He left his half
brother in Barbados and headed for Virginia. I stood on the dock and watched him leave.
I had no idea that this kind young man would someday become the first President
of the United States.
Map of Barbados. Bridgetown is the capital.