The Struggle for Freedom

"I wanted to be free" -- Peter Fossett, 1898

Both before and after Jefferson's death, a number of Monticello's enslaved men tried to seize their freedom by running away.  Few were successful.  While several individuals were able to attain their freedom by self-purchase, most of the African Americans who had lived at Monticello died in bondage or had to wait for the end of the Civil War.

Ad announcing a reward for the return of Sandy, one of Jefferson's slaves.

For those who became free before 1865, freedom did not bring an end to their struggles against slavery.  They assisted those still in bondage through the purchasing of family members, forging of free papers, and the operations of the Underground Railroad.  After Emancipation, their descendants continued the campaign for liberty and equality--in public assemblies, in newspaper columns, in the Union army, and on the field of battle in two world wars.

THE STRUGGLE TO BECOME AND REMAIN FREE

Learn more about the struggles of Monticello's enslaved people and their descendants. Keeping Families Together was the most crucial--both within slavery and following escape, manumission, or emancipation. Even after they became free, they carried on Fighting for Freedom and Equality and their descendants were unrelenting in their quest for racial justice. Navigating the Color Line was an aspect of daily life for those whose light skin--a legacy of Monticello--led to a variety of strategems to try to make a better life for their families.

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