“‘Not so bad?’ Niya Bates on Monticello’s Signage and the Challenges of Historical Interpretation”

On “Q2: Coming to Terms with Sally Hemings,” we take direction from the signage for the Life of Sally Hemings exhibition at Monticello. The historic site thinks a lot about how to talk about slavery for visitors with a range of different experiences, not wanting to sugar coat the histories of violence. So much so, that they had to install an informational plaque in one of the reconstructed quarters that reads: “Not so Bad?” Here’s an exchange between our host, Deborah McDowell, and Niya Bates, Public Historian of Slavery and African American Life at Monticello in which they discuss that sign.