Enslaved people did not simply accept the confines of their bondage, and resistance took many forms.

An example is found in the story of York, a young man enslaved at Monticello who attempted to escape in 1798. It was only after York fled that Thomas Jefferson learned from his son-in-law, Thomas Mann Randolph, that the teenager successfully accessed Jefferson’s bedchamber and took several personal items including books, clothing, and a firearm.  

If written documents—in this instance, letters between Jefferson and Randolph—are the only sources considered, a narrow picture of this event emerges: enslaved person steals from their master. But there is far more to this story.

Learn more in the latest episode of our new podcast series, “In the Course of Human Events,” featuring Monticello’s own Steve Light, Brandon Dillard, and Holly Halliniewski.

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This podcast was made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.