People & Place
Thomas Jefferson provided for the freedom of only nine Monticello slaves: four in his lifetime (two of them formally manumitted, two allowed to leave Monticello) and five in his will. Six months after his death in 1826, 130 men, women, and children were sold at auction. Three of the five men freed by his will, and others who were able to purchase their freedom later, moved with their families to southern Ohio in the 1830s and 1840s. Many of their descendants are still in Ohio, while others have traveled to and settled in all parts of the United States.
However, for the vast majority who remained in bondage, their place of residence was determined by others. Some were taken to Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, and Missouri by Jefferson's descendants and others moving south and west in the mid-nineteenth century. Most remained in the Monticello neighborhood until Emancipation in 1865. Although some of these families moved north in the Great Migration of the early twentieth century, there are still today a number of descendants of Monticello's black community who reside near the mountain where their ancestors lived and worked.
LOCATION AND EXPERIENCE
Whether the former Monticello residents chose their destinations or were compelled to move, conditions in their new homes had a profound effect on their lives. The members of the Hemings and Fossett families, who were freed early, sought better circumstances in Ohio. There they accumulated property and education, moved on as opportunities beckoned, and produced many prominent leaders. The Herns, Hugheses, and Gillettes, who largely remained enslaved until 1865, had a later start. They struggled after the War but made significant strides in acquiring property and gaining and passing on learning. The Scotts who were taken to Alabama and their descendants found themselves locked in the grip of a sharecropping economy, that, even by the mid-twentieth century, allowed almost no chance to buy land or get a decent education.