Hercules, George Washington's head cook at his Mount Vernon plantation, joined the Washingtons at the President's House in Philadelphia in 1790, but only for less than six months at a time. In Pennsylvania, you see, enslaved persons living in the state for six months could claim their freedom, and Hercules was one of our Founding Father's 123 enslaved workers.
Before the end of Washington's second term, after which he'd return to Virginia for good, Hercules fled for freedom. "And he did it on George Washington's birthday," says Amanda Herbert, A&S '10 (PhD), the associate director at the Folger Institute in Washington, D.C. "That was either a deliberate, provocative act, or it was because he knew that attention would be drawn elsewhere that day. It was symbolic nonetheless. I'm sure that symbolism was not lost on Hercules, nor on George and Martha Washington."
read more in hub.jhu.edu