A Guide to Sites, Museums, and Memory

Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello Charlottesville, Virginia, United States

Monticello is the home of Thomas Jefferson, his family, and most of the 607 enslaved people he owned over the course of his life. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and celebrated as the pinnacle of Jefferson’s architectural expression, the property is owned by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, a non-profit educational organization, and opened to the public since 1923. Curators, historians, and archaeologists have undertaken more than sixty years of documentary and archaeological study of Monticello and its enslaved community. Since 1993, we have presented the complex topic of slavery through our general and specialized tours, exhibitions, film, web site, Slavery at Monticello app (Apple rated it at launch as “the best new app” of the week), an oral history project, and physical restoration and reconstruction. We just completed the first phase of the restoration and interpretation of Mulberry Row, the main street of the plantation and the heart of what we call “the landscape of slavery.”

Approximately 435,000 annual visitors engage with slavery at Monticello through interpretation and restoration. Two buildings (a slave dwelling and storehouse) on Mulberry Row have been reconstructed, and planning is underway to renovate two Jefferson-era buildings. The buildings and exhibits reveal the specific stories of enslaved people and their families, domestic functions at Monticello, and the interface between enslaved people and Jefferson’s family. Interpretations are informed by archival materials, architectural history, and archaeological analysis, and display the objects made, owned, and used by slaves in the spaces where they lived and worked. In addition, approximately 1.15 million people viewed our traveling exhibition, The Paradox of Liberty: Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello, in four cities.

These initiatives give Monticello the most visible and comprehensive interpretation of plantation slavery in North America.

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