“This is how the word is passed down,” said a descendant of Monticello’s African American community. He and other descendants have shared stories handed down over generations. Now their Monticello ancestors are “getting word” to us today about their lives, their families, and their dreams.

"I remember hearing..."

Listen to the “way back” tales of Monticello and the newer stories of fighting for justice, as descendants bring to light the lives of their ancestors and the values they passed down.

“This is our family”

See how stories about the African Americans of Monticello—including the largest family, the Hemingses—reveal the strength of family bonds and importance of community activism.

"He was a Civil War hero"

Learn about all the participants in the Getting Word project and some of their ancestors from previous centuries: blacksmiths and farmers, educators and ministers, soldiers and suffragists.

"And they left Virginia"

Find out where the African American families went after they left Monticello, where their descendants settled in the nineteenth century, and where they live today.

The Getting Word oral history project was begun at Monticello in 1993 to preserve the histories of the African American families at Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia plantation. Over 100 interviews with their descendants and additional archival research have brought remarkable individuals out of the shadows of slavery. We can now tell the stories of people whose lives and achievements were all but erased over the last 200 years.


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