This exhibition began as a partnership between Monticello and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, in Washington, D.C. Described as “groundbreaking” in the Washington Post, the exhibition centers the lives of enslaved people, including the families of Edward and Jane Gillette; George and Ursula Granger; Elizabeth Hemings and her children, including Sally Hemings; David and Isabel Hern; and James and Cate Hubbard. More than 300 archaeologically-recovered artifacts elucidate the lives of six enslaved families, making for a visually rich, powerful presentation. Using material from the Getting Word Oral History Project, the exhibition follows the families through Emancipation into the present.
After opening in Washington D.C., the exhibition embarked on a successful four-venue tour between 2012 and 2015. It attracted a wide, diverse audience, estimated at more than 1.2 million visitors in Washington, Atlanta, St. Louis, and Philadelphia.
“Our sweeping American story, wonderful and woeful as it is, leaves out too many people who have been denied and disregarded, folks who should be returned to our national narrative. This exhibition breathes life into those forgotten individuals, restoring to them their humanity and their place in history,” said Gayle Jessup White, Monticello’s community engagement officer and a Hemings family and Jefferson descendant.
We’re grateful for the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities and our museum partners for making this exhibition possible. Paradox was on display at the African American Museum in Dallas, Texas from Sep. 22, 2018—Jan. 21, 2019 where it attracted over 82,000 visitors, making it the most well-attended exhibit in the museum’s 44-year history.