Atlanta History Center Opens New Exhibition Slavery at Jefferson's Monticello: How the Word is Passed Down on February 1, 2013


Groundbreaking Exhibition Conveys the Power of Family History Through Exploration of the Lives of Enslaved Families at Jefferson’s Monticello and the Moving Stories of Their Descendants

ATLANTA, GA – Beginning February 1, 2013, the Atlanta History Center is honored to be one of only two traveling venues to host Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: How the Word is Passed Down , a groundbreaking exhibition organized by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello in partnership with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and is presented locally by Bank of America. Additional local support provided by Kilpatrick Townsend, Duvall and Rex Fuqua, and H.J. Russell & Company. More than one million people visited this thought-provoking exhibition while on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History between January and October 2012.

Through personal belongings, Jefferson’s records, oral histories, archaeology, and genealogy, Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: How the Word is Passed Down explores slavery and enslaved people in America through the lens of Jefferson’s Monticello plantation by providing a rare and detailed glimpse into the lives of six enslaved families - Hemings, Gillette, Hern, Fossett, Granger, and Hubbard brothers - as well as the powerful stories of their descendants.

Visitors come to know the personal stories of these six families via Getting Word , Monticello’s oral history project. Monticello’s Getting Word historians obtained oral history interviews with nearly 180 descendants of people who lived in slavery at Monticello. Participants in the Getting Word project and their ancestors were blacksmiths and farmers, educators and ministers, soldiers and suffragists, and their stories highlight examples of deep family connections, values and achievements, religious faith, their thirst for literacy and education, and a tenacity to make the words of the Declaration of Independence a reality. Visitors learn where the families went after Monticello, where the descendants settled in the nineteenth century, and where they live today.

This exhibition features over 280 objects from Monticello’s collection as well as artifacts from archaeological excavations at Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia plantation – the best-documented, best preserved, and best-studied plantation in North America. Objects on display include Jefferson’s personal items such as a chess set, books, spectacles, and replica of the portable desk used to draft the Declaration of Independence; the headstone of Priscilla Hemmings; ceramics; cooking and kitchen utensils; and personal items of enslaved families such as jewelry, clothing, buttons and buckles, tools, and combs and toothbrushes made with bone handles.

The exhibition also provides the opportunity to reflect on Thomas Jefferson – one of twelve American presidents who owned slaves – who called slavery a “deplorable entanglement,” yet in his lifetime freed only nine slaves out of the over 600 people he owned. By exploring Jefferson’s ideas and slavery at his plantation, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and Monticello have created an exhibition that examines one of the most difficult topics in American history and explores how the paradox of slavery in Jefferson’s world is relevant for generations beyond Jefferson’s lifetime as our country still continues to grapple with issues of race. 

“Understanding the details of the lives of enslaved people adds to our understanding of history, and our understanding of race relations today. We cannot have a clear view of Jefferson, or the founding of our nation, if we leave slavery out of the story,” said Lonnie Bunch, Director of the NMAAHC.

Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: How the Word is Passed Down is on display through July 7, 2013. The Atlanta History Center’s existing annual Black History Month programs, ongoing monthly public programs, and family festival days are designed to complement this new exhibition. Additional programs and activities exploring the themes of this show include school tours, a selection of genealogy workshops led by the Atlanta History Center’s Kenan Research Center; a week-long course for teachers, and Juneteenth, a summer festival celebrating freedom and family history.  

This exhibition is free to members, and included in the cost of general admission for nonmembers. CityPASS accepted. For more information, please call 404.814.4000 or visit AtlantaHistoryCenter.com .  Purchase advance admission tickets online and save, visit AtlantaHistoryCenter.com/Tickets .

ABOUT NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY AND CULTURE:

The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established by an Act of Congress in 2003 making it the nineteenth museum of the Smithsonian Institution. Scheduled for completion in 2015, it will be built on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on a five-acre tract adjacent to the Washington Monument. Currently, during the pre-building phase, the museum is producing publications, hosting public programs, and assembling collections. It is presenting exhibitions at other museums across the country and at its own gallery at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. For more information, visit nmaahc.si.edu.

ABOUT THOMAS JEFFERSON FOUNDATION AT MONTICELLO:

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation was incorporated in 1923 to preserve Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson in Charlottesville, Virginia. Monticello is now recognized as a National Historic Landmark and a United Nations World Heritage Site. As a private, nonprofit organization, the foundation receives no regular federal or state budget support for its two-fold mission of preservation and education. About 450,000 people visit Monticello each year. For more information, visit Monticello.org.

 

About Us

Founded in 1926, the Atlanta History Center is an all-inclusive, thirty-three acre destination featuring the Atlanta History Museum; two historic houses, the 1928 Swan House and 1860 Smith Family Farm; the Centennial Olympic Games Museum; Chick-Fil-A at the Coca-Cola Café; a museum shop; Historic Gardens with paths, and the kid-friendly Connor Brown Discovery Trail. In addition, the History Center operates the Margaret Mitchell House, located in Midtown Atlanta. For more, visit AtlantaHistoryCenter.com.

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Quick facts

More than one million people visited this thought-provoking exhibition while on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History between January and October 2012.
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This exhibition features over 280 objects from Monticello’s collection as well as artifacts from archaeological excavations at Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia plantation
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This groundbreaking exhibition is organized by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello in partnership with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and is presented locally by Bank of America.
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