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To Labor for Another

While the traditional images of enslaved people tend to focus on field labor, construction, and domestic service, the scope of work on a plantation like Monticello was much broader. It is true that African-Americans at Monticello dug canals, planted and harvested crops, and cooked in the kitchen. However, they also worked in tin shops and cooper's shops, and in what Jefferson called "factories" for nailmaking and textile production. Monticello's African-American men and women became highly skilled woodworkers, metalworkers, and textile workers, creating furniture, tools, cloth, and carriages of unusual quality and sophistication.

In addition to the information contained in this section, see Plantation Management to read excerpts from Thomas Jefferson's records detailing the incredible variety of tasks performed and skills developed by Monticello's African-American residents.

Top of page: detail of "In the Vegetable Garden" by Nathaniel Gibbs

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