The recent news cycle has seen a number of articles and a television interview proclaiming that Monticello is no longer a place where you can learn about Thomas Jefferson’s contributions to American history. Instead, these stories claim that the only thing you can learn is that Jefferson was a slaveholder. These stories are disappointing and inaccurate, but not at all surprising.
Part of a two-day event to honor Monticello's Getting Word community and the re-dedication of the Burial Ground for Enslaved People, this public program highlights the importance of descendant voices in the telling of American history—voices that have often been marginalized, or left out completely. Featured speakers include filmmaker Ava DuVernay, The Atlantic writer Clint Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed, musician Wynton Marsalis, Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, descendants of families who were enslaved at Monticello, and more.
Minerva Granger was one of the enslaved women who was essential to Jefferson’s agricultural endeavors on his plantation. Along with her family and other members of the enslaved community, she planted and harvested tobacco and later wheat, which Jefferson sold on Atlantic markets.
Music was an important part of life for enslaved people at Monticello, and particular individuals, like Eston Hemings, within this society were noted for their artistic talents. For many enslaved people at plantations throughout the United States, music making was a way to strengthen family and community ties, resist oppression, entertain one another, and express thoughts and emotions about the past, present, and future.
In Thomas Jefferson’s lifetime, the holidays at Monticello were a time for family gatherings, visiting friends, settling accounts and planning for the new year. For Monticello’s enslaved community, the holiday season was a time for reunion and a possible respite from labor on the Plantation.
October is Virginia Archaeology Month. It offers an opportunity to learn about and celebrate archaeology in the state -- including at Monticello. Before COVID the local focus made archaeological research accessible: you could visit sites and labs, chat with people making discoveries, and find out how you can participate. Those days will return!
Visitors to Monticello and the University of Virginia (UVA) can easily see their connections to Thomas Jefferson, the visionary architect of both these U.N. World Heritage sites. The recent dedication of the Memorial to Enslaved Workers at UVA reveals Monticello’s enslaved community and the University are connected as well - names of people enslaved at Monticello are among the names and memory marks of the UVA Memorial’s inner ring.
In 1900, Coralie Franklin Cook was the only African-American woman who was asked to speak at Susan B. Anthony’s 80th birthday celebration. She had spent her life breaking barriers and fighting for the rights of women and women of color.
931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway
Charlottesville, VA 22902