Thomas Jefferson's Monticello Helps Us Understand Charlottesville's Tragedy
President Thomas Jefferson's plantation provides historical context for today's news cycle
Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale,1800
White House Historical Association
In the wake of the recent civil unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, and President Trump calling out Thomas Jefferson as a slaveholder, it's time to put a visit to Monticello on your family's calendar.
I've been meaning to return to Thomas Jefferson's plantation since February, when archaeologists announced that they may have uncovered the living space of Sally Hemings.
Hemings was the enslaved woman with whom Thomas Jefferson is thought to have fathered six children.
Jefferson's conflicted beliefs about slavery—he drafted the Declaration of Independence to include strong statements against slavery while simultaneously being a slaveholder—are explored in Monticello's programming. Monticello has a simultaneous objective of drawing visitor attention to the enslaved people at his plantation, which is why the archeology project is important.
Monticello can help everyone in your family understand American racial history in a fuller context and offers families a way to discover the subject in age-appropriate ways. The historical site neither sensationalizes nor sugarcoats slavery.
Leslie Greene Bowman is President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which owns and operates Monticello. In a statement following the riots in Charlottesville she said:
Guided tours, including slave quarters on “Mulberry Row”
Mulberry Row laborers worked as skilled weavers, spinners, blacksmiths, tinsmiths, nail-makers, carpenters, house joiners, gardeners, stablemen, and domestic servants.