First published by the History News Network. George Washington was a slaveholder. For some Americans, this is reason enough to exclude our first president from the national pantheon. According to one poll, 18 percent of respondents believe he should be removed from Mount Rushmore. Others expressed themselves by defacing or toppling Washington statues. Are these critics right? On the surface, it might seem so. American slavery was inexpressibly gruesome. Accounts from the time reveal the horrors of enslaved African-Americans being separated from their families, violently beaten, routinely raped by their owners, subjected to monotonous, backbreaking labor, and forced to live in filthy dwellings with no hope for improvement.