I pared down the original dataset to only the ‘Marker Name’, ‘Marker Text’, ‘City/County Location’, ‘Sign Line’, ‘VDOT District’, and ‘Marker Number’.
I kept ‘Marker Name’ as an obvious identifier. ‘Marker Number’ was kept to specifically identify markers, particularly to locate any duplicates erected at different times/places. ‘City/County’ obviously locates the markers. VDOT District is useful to more regionally group markers geographically. ‘Sign Line’ included the date the marker was put in place with the founding organization. I split the column into 2, ‘Year Est’ and ‘Founding Org’.
I then reviewed the marker text and added these additional columns: ‘Relation’, ‘Primary Subject’, ‘African Americans’, and ‘Slavery’.
‘Relation’ specifically refers to George Washington’s relationship to the subject of that Marker. I resulted in using the following categories:
- ‘7YW’ – The Seven Years War or French and Indian War. Generally refers to GW’s time as an officer during that period.
- ‘Biographical’ – A marker does not have to be strictly about George Washington, but the reference to him must go beyond a mention to give some detail of his personal and business life.
- ‘Family’ – GW’s mention is in relation to a family member that is the subject of or related to the marker.
- ‘Mention’ – Markers that more or less include passing mentions of GW such as, “George Washington once passed through here,” as an additional note to the subject of the marker.
- ‘Name’ – GW is a namesake to the subject of the marker or an object mentioned. The marker specifically notes the namesake.
- ‘Presidency’ – Refers to events during GW’s presidency.
- ‘Revolution’ – Refers to GW’s service during the American Revolution.
- ‘Slaveowner’ – Refers to a slave or slaves that GW owned.
- ‘Unrelated’ – Not about GW, the first president. Notably and perhaps ironically, these mainly refer to African Americans named after GW: George Washington Carver and Rev. George Washington Nelson. These are excluded from ‘Mention’ or ‘Name’ because the markers do not note that GW is their namesake. Being unrelated, they were removed from the dataset.
‘Primary Subject’ refers to the primary subject of the marker, as in the central person or thing being commemorated. I ended up breaking that into the following categories:
* The last few options are reasonably self-explanatory and were put last so they wouldn’t be easily overlooked.
- Person – Any specific person.
- Creek Indians – 1 occurrence and there was not a better generalizing noun.
- Home – Used in reference to a house or when home is used. I used this over property in some instances such as signs commemorating birthplaces but not being at the specific house.
- Plantation – Used as a general noun for plantations and farms. Primarily used when the property is described as a plantation or refers to farming operations.
- Property – A commercial property with a named owner. While there could be more specific categories such as “Mill,” “Ferry,” or “Tavern,” there is not much quantitative or qualitative reason to do so when it’s more likely to skew results.
- Church – Church or church property.
- City – City or town.
- Region – A general region that is not a county, city, or town.
- Battle – These refer to battle sites or locations/encampments adjacent to battle sites.
After completing these 2 columns, I had realized that while there was a lot of information that could be used, it doesn’t say a lot or anything about slavery in relation to GW. Initially, I had wanted to rely on the ‘Relation’ and ‘Primary Subject’ columns to provide this information. In contrast, as I read the markers, there were scattered mentions of slaves throughout. So, I went back to add the column, ‘Slavery’.
It is a straightforward question: Was slavery acknowledged in the marker?
The bar seems set low. Any reference to slavery, even acknowledging free status (words such as “Freedmen”), was coded as a yes. These are acknowledgements of slavery though. If slavery were not at all related to the people mentioned, they would not have to be called “free.”
I used this same ‘Slavery’ column and standard for the Plantations dataset as well.