Yarrow Mamout, 1819


Historical Society of Pennsylvania


Yarrow Mamout (or, Mahmoud or Muhammad Yaro) was born in Africa around 1736 and was a teenager when enslaved and brought to America in 1752. He was a Fulani and probably came from the Futa Jallon region in the eastern part of today's Senegal and Guinea. Brought to Annapolis, Maryland, as a slave, he was manumitted in 1796 and lived in the Georgetown section of Washington D.C. where he was well known. A devout Muslim and hard worker, he was able to accumulate money and a house. He lived the rest of his life in Georgetown, where he died in 1823 at the age of about 88. Charles Willson Peale, the celebrated American artist, painted this oil portrait in 1819 when Yarrow Mamout was about 83 (not well over 100, as Peale erroneously assumed). Another, less polished, portrait was done by James Alexander Simpson in 1822; it is held by the Georgetown Branch of the District of Columbia Public Library (see Image mamout on this website). The most comprehensive account of Yarrow Mamout's life (and that of his descendants) is in James H. Johnston, From Slave Ship to Harvard: Yarrow Mamout and the history of an African American family (Fordham University Press, 2012). A slide of this painting was provided for this website by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania which formerly had the painting; today it is held by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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