This February: Black History at Monticello

Posted in: Visiting Monticello

Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. At Monticello, February is an opportunity to highlight the programs and tours offered at Monticello that shed light on the lives of the African American men and women who lived and worked here.

Monticello is considered one of the best documented, best preserved, and best studied plantations in North America. What visitors experience on site and online is the product of 50 years of research. Monticello’s curators, historians and archaeologists are committed to sharing what we’ve learned on a national stage. We know many details of the lives of those enslaved at Monticello, particulars of families, work, skill, hopes, and dreams. We can begin to understand slavery …not as an abstraction, but through the stories of individuals and families surviving within a system that denied their basic humanity It is home to a staff of curators, researchers, scholars, historians and archaeologists who are committed to telling the story of enslaved men and women as individuals.

On February 22 and 23, 2013 Monticello will host Telling the History of Slavery: Scholarship, Museum Interpretation, and the Public, a two-day symposium exploring the recent innovations in slavery research and its impact on scholarship and public interpretation. This two-day event will feature panel discussions exploring recent innovations in slavery research and its impact on scholarship and public interpretation. Bringing together leading experts from across academia, museums, and documentary filmmaking, the conference will include four panels, each with four presenters and a commentator, a plenary address by noted slavery historian Philip Morgan, and demonstrations of new research databases, analysis tools, and examples of digital history projects. The conference will provide opportunities for dialogue among presenters and attendees on the new opportunities and challenges that scholars, curators, educators, family historians, and the general public now face with recent advances in slavery research.

Beginning February 1, the landmark exhibition Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty, organized by Monticello and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture opens at the Atlanta History Center. More than one million people visited this thought-provoking exhibition while on it was display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History between January and October 2012.

Throughout February (and from April - October), visitors can take the Slavery at Monticello Tour to learn more about slavery at Monticello and those who lived and labored along Mulberry Row, the plantation’s main street. This guided tour offered in February, and also during the warmer months, April through October, takes visitors down Mulberry Row where buildings once stood, including the joinery and nailery.

During weekends in February, Monticello offers a special tour— Waiting on Liberty: Slavery in Jefferson’s “Great House” which offers an in-depth look at the enslaved African Americans who worked inside Thomas Jefferson’s “Great House.” The tour takes visitors through select rooms in Monticello and a guide will encourage a discussion about the significance today about the enduring paradox of slavery at Monticello.

On February 9, Monticello hosts Archaeology Family Workshop, a free two-hour workshop that provides a hands-on introduction to archaeology at Monticello. In a classroom setting families (recommended for children in grades 4-7) engage in a mock archaeological excavation. Participants will handle and observe authentic artifacts and work together to uncover evidence about the people who lived at Monticello.

Monticello.org offers virtual visitors numerous resources to learn more about the African American men and women who lived and labored at Monticello. The Getting Word oral history project created at Monticello in 1993 to preserve the histories of the African American families at Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia plantation is now available online. Now more than 100 interviews with their descendants and additional archival research have brought remarkable individuals out of the shadows of slavery.

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