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Were some of the Monticello slaves born in Africa?

We do not know. The names of men like Sanco, Mingo, and Quash in Jefferson's 1774 Farm Book lists are suggestive of an African origin. It is probable, however, that most, if not all, of the enslaved persons at Monticello were a number of generations removed from Africa. Jefferson's father, Peter Jefferson, had acquired his laborers in the mid-eighteenth century from other Virginia planters in small lots of one or several. His father-in-law, John Wayles, while not directly engaged in the transatlantic slave trade, was commercially connected to it. It is possible that, among the 135 slaves Jefferson inherited from Wayles in 1774, there may have been native-born Africans.

Based on what is known of the eighteenth-century slave trade to Virginia ports, the forebears of Monticello's slaves were most likely brought from western Africa, especially the land of the Igbo in present Nigeria. Signs of African spiritual and cultural traditions persisted at Monticello into the nineteenth century. Archaeological excavations have unearthed artifacts like a cowrie shell, jewelry items, and a possible playing piece from a West African game, mankala.


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