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About Getting Word

The Getting Word oral history project at Monticello locates and records the oral histories of the descendants of Monticello’s enslaved families.  This rich treasure-house of memories over seven generations helps to expand our understanding of life at Monticello two hundred years ago as well as to illuminate the lives of the descendants of enslaved people.  Oral interviews are supplemented with research in newspapers, private papers, and public records.

Since 1993, Getting Word staff has traveled over 40,000 miles, interviewing descendants all over the United States, from Alabama to Ohio and Massachusetts to California.  By the beginning of 2012, almost 180 people had contributed to the project by sharing their family stories, as well as photographs and memorabilia.

Information gathered by the project is featured in the Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty exhibition, jointly organized by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and appearing at the National Museum of American History from January 27–October 14, 2012.  The project has also hosted a weekend event that brought more than a hundred descendants of Monticello’s African-American community back to the mountaintop their ancestors left over 150 years ago. 

Project staff included director Lucia Stanton, project historian Dianne Swann-Wright, and project consultant Beverly Gray.  The website staff included project coordinator Ann Lucas Birle, research assistant Mary Mason Williams, and webmaster Chad Wollerton.

The Getting Word website was designed and developed by Night Kitchen Interactive.

For further information, write the Getting Word project, Monticello, P. O. Box 316, Charlottesville, VA 22902 or email

Brad Bennett of Shaking Hands Productions, Lynchburg, VA, produced the 2018 introductory video based on an early version by Paul Wagner and Stace Carter of Paul Wagner Films. The narrator is Gayle Jessup White. Background music is "Julie," written and performed by Rhiannon Giddens, appears courtesy Ms. Giddens, Q Prime Managment, Children of Llyr (BMI), and Wixen Music Publishing, Inc. Additional footage and images were provided by Ian Atkins, Sallah Baloch, Clarence Green, and Peggy Harrison.


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