The following podcast, “Notes on the State” was produced in 2019 for the University of Virginia’s Bicentennial by the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies. The six-part series features a variety of voices, all with their minds on Thomas Jefferson, but most especially on the only book he ever wrote: Notes on the State of Virginia, from which this project takes its title “Notes on the State.” Modeling the format of Jefferson’s book, each episode is structured as a “query.” Accordingly, episodes are designed to query Jefferson’s history and to spend time in the contradictions and limitations, the vexing corners and confounding gaps of Jefferson’s thought as a way of exploring what Jefferson can still do for us today.

The project does not profess to resolve or answer the questions about Jefferson with which scholars have engaged for generations, rather to tangle with them. Indeed, this podcast seeks to spend time in the gaps and contradictions of Jefferson’s thought as well as the limitations of his thought to explore which aspects of Jefferson’s thought we should take with us or discard in our present day. To borrow from Jefferson’s own “advertisement” or disclaimer from his book Notes on the State of Virginia: 

The subjects are all treated imperfectly; some scarcely touched on. To apologize for this by developing the circumstances of the time and place of their composition, would be to open wounds which have already bled enough. To these circumstances some of their imperfections may with truth be ascribed; the great mass to the want of information and want of talents in the writer.

–  Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia,  “Advertisement”

To listen to the series, please “subscribe” on iTunes or via the podcatcher of your choice. This will allow you to receive new episodes downloaded directly to your device. For more information, visit our page on “how-to-listen.” Also, be sure to browse our published “episodes” and “archive” of full interviews.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Notes on the State team halted production of new episodes. A full archive of interviews can be found on this website. In total, the project recorded 17 interviews, each range from 1 hour to 2 hours in length. These interviews reflect the importance of revisiting Jefferson’s history at the moment of the University’s 200 year anniversary. We thank all the scholars interviewed for this project as well as all the students, staff, and administrative support that contributed to this rich archive of interviews.

The Team

Headshot of Deborah McDowell

Deborah E. McDowell

Host and Executive Producer, Director of the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies & Alice Griffin Professor of English

Headshot of James Perla with crossed arms

James Perla

Senior Producer, Managing Director of the Citizen Justice Initiative


Theme music and sound design by Paige Naylor

Logo design by Charity Dinko

Additional music by A.D. Carson

Student Assistants:

Laila Barnes

Brian Cameron

Hahna Cho

Charity Dinko

Joshua Gravely

Laila Hurd

Gabrielle Oliver

Maggie Pollard

Zhaire Roberson

Joshua St. Hill

Special thanks to:

Jeremy Boggs

Robert Fatton, Jr.

The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative

UVA’s Scholars’ Lab

Paige Naylor

Andrew Parsons

The Wilson Media Studios


This podcast is supported by the University of Virginia Bicentennial with funding provided by the Alumni
Board of Trustees.