Researchers say George Washington’s teeth were yanked from the mouths of slaves
By Yolanda Spivey
As a little girl, I’ll never forget going on a class trip to Jumel Terrace in New York City where we learned about the life of America’s first president, George Washington. There, I was fascinated, along with the rest of my classmates, to hear the story of George Washington’s false teeth. Our tour guide told us that they were made of wood. I thought to my ten year old self, “wouldn’t he get splinters in his gums?”
This is the story that was told and continues to be told to millions of school children right here in the United States.
Recently I came across a blog that claims that George Washington’s teeth were actually dentures that were made up of real teeth from his slaves. That’s right-his very own slaves. The blog, ReunionBlackFamily.com states, “Washington had teeth that actually were yanked from the heads of his slaves and fitted into his dentures… [and also] apparently had slaves’ teeth transplanted into his own jaw in 1784.”
I had to do some research on my own to confirm the validity of this story.
According to MountVernon.org, a website dedicated to the telling of America’s early history, George Washington’s teeth may have indeed come from slaves, although they do not confirm these claims completely.
George Washington wasn’t the healthiest U.S. president and was plagued with a great amount of ailments in his life, one being poor dental health. They stated, “Beginning in his twenties he (George Washington), experienced regular toothaches, decay and tooth loss.” They attribute Washington’s poor dental health to a poor diet and disease which was common during those times.
Throughout most of George Washington’s life, he spent the majority of his time buying a “variety of tooth cleaners, dental medicines and dentures.”
The website even admits that his teeth were NOT made of wood.
While Washington had dentures in his life that were made of ivory and gold wiring, he also had a pair of dentures that were constructed by a New York dentist who specialized in dental implants using real human teeth.
Dr. John Greenwood, a former Revolutionary soldier, carved a set of dentures for Washington that was made of “hippopotamus ivory, gold wire springs and brass screws holding human teeth.”
This is just my opinion, but, I’m pretty sure there weren’t any white people during that time giving their teeth away just to make Washington’s smile complete. In fact, it’s only feasible to reason that his teeth, which were confirmed to have come from human beings, were in fact from Blacks who were enslaved.
ReunionBlackFamily.com, made some valid points as it relates to Washington and what type of master he was to his slaves. They stated, “Washington’s Black workforce was “miserably housed, in a very harsh place.” This was based on the observation of a Polish poet by the name of Julian Niemcewicz who resided on Washington’s estate for two weeks.
It is documented that he treated his slaves in “degrading, demeaning, debasing and dehumanizing” manners. So it’s possible that he too might’ve just pulled those slaves beautiful teeth to have a set of his own pearly whites. [No pun intended].
I couldn’t resist reading the comments section on ReunionBlackFamily’s blog. One person stated, “To be fair, Washington actually purchased the teeth from his slaves.”
Like that makes it any better.
Bottom line is, his teeth came from Black slaves and the story of his teeth being wooden is just straight up FALSE!
Yolanda Spivey writes on a variety of topics and is the founder of Black Insurance News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can visit her Facebook page.
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