You are here

Exploring Freedom and the Legacies of Slavery

On what was once a working plantation, the paradox of slavery stands in stark relief to the ideals of liberty that Jefferson embedded in the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson owned 607 men, women, and children over the course of his lifetime. Archaeologists and historians have spent more than 50 years uncovering their stories and the footprint of plantation life at Monticello. Recent restoration has further revealed the history of slavery on the mountaintop. Explore the stories of remarkable families and individuals — free and enslaved — from over seven generations, through Monticello's tours, exhibitions, digital resources and special events.

Getting Word: African American Families of Monticello

For 25 years, Getting Word has been preserving the histories of the descendants of Monticello's African American community. These oral histories have informed Monticello’s tours and exhibits, and highlighted legacies of freedom and slavery in this country. Getting Word now comprises one of the largest oral history archives on slavery outside of the WPA’s Slave Narratives Collection.

The Life of Sally Hemings

Sally Hemings was enslaved with her family at Monticello. She lived in Paris with Jefferson and two of his daughters from 1787 to 1789 and was the mother of at least six of Jefferson's children. Learn more in this short, historical overview.

Look Closer Opening

On June 16, in conjunction with national Juneteenth events, Monticello unveiled exhibit and newly restored spaces, including the opening of the South Wing and The Life of Sally Hemings exhibit. This landmark conclusion of a major restoration initiative at Monticello also commemorated 25 years of the Getting Word oral history project.

Slavery at Monticello App

Meet the individuals who lived and worked on Mulberry Row, once the industrial hub and center of work and domestic life for dozens of people, free and enslaved, at Thomas Jefferson’s 5,000-acre plantation.

Milestones in the Research and Interpretation of Slavery at Monticello

As a result of Jefferson’s meticulous record-keeping, and more than fifty years of scholarly research by curators, historians and archaeologists, Monticello is among the most thoroughly documented, preserved and studied plantations in North America. Follow Monticello’s work on this timeline of important milestones in the research and interpretation on slavery at Monticello since the 1950s.

International Conference: New Approaches in Interpreting and Representing Slavery in Museums and Sites

A two-day conference March 19-20, 2018, in Charlottesville, VA, sponsored by Monticello, the University of Virginia, and the United States Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (US/ICOMOS) in collaboration with the United National Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Slave Route Project: Resistance, Liberty, and Heritage.

Memory, Mourning, Mobilization: Legacies of Slavery and Freedom in America

In 2016, historians, descendants of those enslaved at Monticello, cultural leaders and activists engaged in a far-ranging dialogue on the history of slavery and its meaning in today’s conversations on race, freedom, and equality on the West Lawn of Monticello. Watch videos from the public summit and continue the conversation »

Videos on Slavery at Monticello

National Initiatives

Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty

In 2012, Monticello and the National Museum of African American History and Culture partnered to launch a major exhibition on slavery. Visit the companion website »

Jefferson Schools Initiative

Monticello has piloted a program with some of the 300+ schools across the United States that bear Thomas Jefferson’s name, inviting students and teachers to learn more about Jefferson, race, slavery and leadership.

Tours and Exhibitions at Monticello

Hemings Family Tours
Daily, February through November
See Monticello through the lens of the Hemings Family, the best documented enslaved family in the United States.

Slavery at Monticello Tours
Offered Daily
Find out how the plantation operated and learn about the lives of enslaved individuals who labored to make Monticello possible. Now in its 25th year.

Landscape of Slavery: Mulberry Row at Monticello
This site-based, outdoor exhibition tells the stories of the dynamic, industrial hub of Jefferson’s 5,000-acre agricultural enterprise and a center of work and domestic life for dozens of people -- free whites, free blacks, servants, and enslaved people. Visit the companion website  »

Life-sized figures, archaeologically recovered objects, and interactive models of the wine dumbwaiter, "servant's" bell, and storehouse locks, give a sense of the constant interaction and domestic activity required to keep Monticello running.


Login or register to participate in our online community.