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.
On February 15, 2019, we hosted a “launch party” at the Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative in Charlottesville, Virginia.
At the event, we showcased clips from our series in the Bridge’s “Storystream” listening booth. Please enjoy the online versions of those clips below.
The decision to use human lives as a pursuit of economic stability would lay the groundwork for our country’s development and the person responsible was Thomas Jefferson. But, why? Why would someone who wrote an entire passage criticizing the slave trade then buy/sell slaves? During a tour of Jefferson’s house, Monticello, I asked our tour guide about why Jefferson didn’t live up to his ideals.
I remember being horrified at the knowledge of Thomas Jefferson taking advantage of Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman at Monticello who bore 6 children with Jefferson. But I think what disturbed me the most was the way Charlottesville seemed to really uphold this man as a standard.
While the view of the Tidal Basin and aromatic cherry blossoms set a serene scene around the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., the memorial, since its inception, has been riddled with contradictions and controversy.
Although Thomas Jefferson is remembered for ardently petitioning on behalf of man’s endowed rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, he likewise involved himself in the development of the carceral system and institutional punishment.