Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty

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The exhibition explores slavery and enslaved people in America through the lens of Jefferson’s Monticello plantation. Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence and called slavery an “abominable crime,” yet he was a lifelong slaveholder. In an age inspired by the Declaration of Independence, slavery was pervasive—28% of the American population was enslaved in 1790. The exhibition provides a glimpse into the lives of six slave families—the Hemings, the Gillettes, the Herns, the Fossetts, the Grangers and the Hubbard brothers—living at Monticello and reveals how the paradox of slavery in Jefferson’s world is relevant for generations beyond Jefferson’s lifetime.