How could the author of the Declaration of the Independence own slaves? How could twenty percent of the population of the new United States, founded on the principles of liberty and equality, live in bondage? What was life like for enslaved people in the early republic? This online exhibition uses Monticello as a lens through which to examine these questions.

Thomas Jefferson: Liberty and Slavery

Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, yet, over the course of his life, he owned 600 people. His way of life always depended on the labor of people he held in slavery.

Enslaved Families of Monticello

Like others across the South, Monticello’s enslaved families resisted slavery’s dehumanizing effects by creating lives that flourished independent of Jefferson.

After Monticello

The people of Monticello and their descendants strove to make Jefferson’s ideals a reality.