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Life at Monticello

"You can see mountains all round as far as the eye can reach." -- Isaac (Granger) Jefferson, remembering Monticello in 1847

Days and nights at Monticello were filled with the rhythms of toil and rest, hope and foreboding, life and death. Over the decades of Jefferson's life those rhythms varied with his absence or presence and depended as much upon his current interests as upon the weather or the seasons. But for all those years the enslaved people living at Monticello were far from passive. They lived two lives, one directed by Jefferson and his overseers, and another one, invisible to the owner and his managers.

In their restricted free time, Monticello's African Americans created their own culture, enriched by music, dancing, and strong spiritual beliefs. The skills they mastered through work for another and the values they nourished in their own time formed a legacy that they passed on to their children.

The Enslaved People of Monticello

Learn more about the African-American residents of Monticello:

You will find information about the nature of their working lives under To Labor for Another and Plantation Management, which chronicle the variety of their tasks and the admirable skills they developed. In Our Own Time offers a revealing glimpse into the shadows of enslaved peoples' lives away from the surveillance of their masters--the closest many of them came to true freedom. Read about the recent rediscovery of the slave burial ground at Monticello that has enabled archaeologists to begin deciphering some of the earliest rituals of African-American life and has allowed descendants to Honor the Ancestors who were for so long invisible.

Above right: "A Moment on Mulberry Row" by Nathaniel Gibbs


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