Born into slavery in Westmoreland County, VA. When he was around 16 years old, Lee and his younger brother, Frank, were sold to George Washington. William became Washington’s personal valet and accompanied him on the surveying expedition of the Ohio Valley in 1770 and the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1774.

Lee served at Washington’s side throughout the entire eight years of the American Revolution, riding next to him through all sorts of danger, including on the battlefield. He was also responsible for organizing Washington’s personal affairs and papers. When Washington died in 1799, William Lee was the only slave he freed immediately “for his faithful services during the American Revolution.”

Washington’s feeling about the morality of slavery changed dramatically from the time he was a boy until his death. Relationships with men like William Lee and the African American soldiers of the Continental Army played a significant role in Washington’s change of heart.

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