PHILADELPHIA – Life at the mansion of an American hero looks completely different from the perspective of slaves. The National Constitution Center explores the stories of six slave families who worked at Thomas Jefferson’s estate in the “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello” exhibit.
The exhibit runs from April 9 to October 19, 2014 through a partnership between the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC).
“As a result of Jefferson’s assiduous record-keeping, augmented by fifty years of modern scholarly research, Monticello is the best documented, best preserved and best studied plantation in North America,” said Leslie Greene Bowman, president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. “Throughout our partnership, Monticello and NMAAHC have created a unique opportunity to discuss slavery as the unresolved issue of the American Revolution and to offer Jefferson and Monticello as a window into the unfulfilled promise of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’”
About 3,500 square feet of exhibit space displays over 280 objects including artifacts from Mulberry Row, where Monticello slaves lived. Rare coins, ceramics, shoes and toothbrush handles all help paint the picture of the slaves’ daily lives. Jefferson’s own possessions also feature in the exhibit, such as his eyeglasses, gold walking stick and portable desk he used to draft the Declaration of Independence.
An impactful three-minute video shows highlights from interviews conducted at Monticello in 1993 with descendents of the families who lived and worked at the plantation. Visitors can purchase an iPod tour for further background on the exhibit’s displays.
The museum’s main exhibit features a rare printing on the Declaration of Independence, the 1823 Stone Declaration and displays on the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments that were added to the Constitution to help foster equality.
“Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello” is included in the cost of general admission to the museum.
For more information, visit www.constitutioncenter.org.