The Interpretation of Slavery at Monticello Today
The Thomas Jefferson Foundation strives to interpret the lives of all of Monticello's residents, both free and enslaved. Working with an advisory panel of scholars and museum professionals, the Foundation seeks to find new avenues for learning and discussion.
Visitors to the mountaintop receive two brochures, one about the house and grounds, and the other about Mulberry Row. The Mulberry Row brochure contains the story of Monticello's plantation industries and workers, along with text for a self-guided tour of the slave sites. From April through October, guided Plantation Community tours are offered several times a day.
In addition, the Foundation recognizes African-American History Month in February with special programs. Several times each summer, the Foundation sponsors "Plantation Weekends" with interpreters who demonstrate trades practiced at Monticello in Jefferson's time, and portray slaves such as Isaac Jefferson. The Monticello Department of Education makes available a curricular unit entitled Finding Isaac Jefferson: A Monticello Slave.
The Foundation has published a two monographs by Monticello Shannon Senior Research Historian Lucia C. Stanton. Slavery at Monticello and Free Some Day: The African-American Families of Monticello are available through the Monticello Museum Shops at (434) 984-9840, or via the Monticello Online Store.
Monticello's interpretation of slave life is informed by the detailed notes in Jefferson's records and letters, thousands of artifacts found during excavations of the plantation sites, and letters and memoirs written by Monticello slaves, Jefferson family members, and guests. In 1994, the Monticello Research Department widened its search for information about slave life on the mountaintop through the oral history project Getting Word. Interviewing descendants of Monticello slaves, historian Dianne Swann-Wright and Senior Research Historian Lucia C. Stanton (pictured here) have gathered a rich mixture of stories, traditions, and experiences that have been passed down through generations. The findings of these interviews have been compiled in an online exhibit.
Known surnames in Monticello's African-American community include: Bell, Bowles, Brown, Colbert, Coles, Evans, Everett, Farley, Fossett (Faucett), Gillette, Hall, Hearne, Hemmings (Hemings), Hix, Hubbard, Hughes, Jefferson, Lewis, Marks, Martin, Scott, Shackleford, Wayles (Wells), Woodson, and Wright. If you have information about Monticello's slave families or their descendants and would like to participate in the project, please contact:
Lucia C. Stanton or Dianne Swann-Wright,
The Getting Word Project
Post Office Box 316
Charlottesville, VA 22902
Getting Word is sponsored by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, The Coca-Cola Company, The Ford Foundation, and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy.
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