Skip to main content

tv   Slavery at Thomas Jeffersons Monticello  CSPAN  July 4, 2017 7:30pm-8:01pm EDT

7:30 pm
innovations that have happened here, like vote by mail, back part of the culture, death with dignity, whether you're a rural oregonian or urban oregonian, you're proud of what we've done to clean up oregon's environment. our cities tour staff recently traveled to portland, oregon to learn about its rich history. learn more about portland and other stops on our tour at you're watching american history tv. all weekend every weekend on c-span3. so if you had visited monticello 20 years ago you would have come up the mountain and seen jefferson's villa. what we wanted to do was change that. we wanted to restore the
7:31 pm
landscape of slavery. you had come up this mountaintop in jefferson's time, the fist thing you would have seen most likely would have ben enslaved people. there would have been no place on this mountaintop that slavery was not visible. and we want to restore that, make that known to visitors who come here today. [ construction noise ]. >> so we're now in the middle of recreating or restoring dwellings along the main plantation street as well as rooms attached to the house just behind us. so all of this is an effort to sort of shift the focus away from just jefferson and talk about the dozens of other people who essentially made his life possible. right now we're actually just
7:32 pm
near jefferson's main house, the mansion that he built throughout his life. and we're standing next to mulberry row, the main plantation street at monticello. 1300 feet. we know that over 20 workshops, storehouses and dwellings line this street. they were enslaved families here, there were servants, hired white artisans. and also several of the workshops were supervised by jefferson and members of his white family. this is really the hub of industry of monticello who wasn't just this mountaintop but was a 5,000 acre plantation. and that is about 8 square miles. so this plantation is enormous. but the center of activity is really right here. so if you had been here in jefferson's day, you would have seen carriages coming up and down this road, you would have
7:33 pm
heard the noise of chickens, of dogs. you would have smelled smoke in the air. you would have heard hammers and saws. there were dozens of people here, white and black, free and enslaved, all working for jefferson's plantation. from jefferson's copious record taking we know that he owned 607 human beings in his lifetime but at any given time 130 to 140 slaves would have been working at monticello and that would have been not just this mountaintop but the surrounding farms as well. but this was a tremendously dynamic and fluid place where enslaved people were coming and going, living in different areas and jefferson interacted with all of them in different ways. but it wasn't like he was isolated here on his mountain top. you know, he used to take daily rides throughout his plantation. not only to kind of remind
7:34 pm
slaves that he was their owner, but also so he had a kind of knowledge of what was going on across these 8 square miles. so mulberry row was an experiment for jefferson. this plantation street was very unique in the larger context of virginia plantations. he wanted it to be an experiment as a way to reform slavery and he wanted to do that by imparting trades to enslave people. so rather than them just being field laborers, unskilled field laborers, they could come up here and learn a skill, blacksmithing, carpentry, house joining. these are a few of the many skills that enslaved people learned and jefferson considered this an improvement over being out in the fields with wheat or tobacco or the other crops. if you come here and you know that jefferson is the author of the declaration, the iconic
7:35 pm
words all men are created equal and you find out that he owned 600 slaves, he looks pretty bad. but in jefferson's mind he wasn't a hypocrite because he believed he was making changes to the institution of slavery that would pave the way for abolition. he's trying to reform it, changing housing, and he believes this is a gradual process that will inevitably result in emancipation further down the line. we know more about monticello than any other plantation in north america. it's the best documented estate. and because of that we know more about the enslaved people here than anywhere else. we've been able to put together the most comprehensive portrait of life for enslaved people during jefferson's time but beyond it as well. and i think that really lends a unique and human portrait to what slavery was here both as
7:36 pm
horrific and coercive institution but also as a way of emphasizing the humanity of enslaved people and the fact that they were able to preserve themselves and their families, even within the bounds of enslavement. sally hemmings was part of a very large family of enslaved people here at monticello who numbered about 80 people. and she was the daughter of the hemmings matriarch, elizabeth hemmings. and we do believe that years after his wife's death jefferson fathered six children with sally hemmings, four of whom survived to adulthood. their names were eston, madison, beverly and hair yot. so sally hemmings was part of an inheritance. i think it's important to remember that slaves were property and they could be inherited through marriage as
7:37 pm
well as being bought and sold. so when jefferson married his wife martha in 1772, she was the daughter of a very wealthy slaf trader called john wales. and it was through john wales that jefferson inherited 135 slaves and sally hemmings was one of those slaves. he was not born in monticello, he was born on the eastern shore and she arrived here in about 1773 or 1774. sally hemmings is a person who sort of shrouded in mystery because we no so little about her. there are actually only four references to her, to descriptions of her that exist in the last 200 years. jefferson himself never wrote about her explicitly. so she remains this very mysterious figure. but i think it's really important to emphasize that she was related to jefferson's wife. so he was martha wales jefferson's half sister. and she may have even resembled
7:38 pm
jefferson's wife. so in 1784 jefferson took up a post in paris as an essentially trade ambassador. he was trying to forge treaties with the french and other countries so that the new u.s. could survive in the wake of the american revolution. but he had -- he wanted to have his daughters with him. he wanted to have martha and mariah, his youngest daughter. but he also wanted someone, an enslaved woman or girl to accompany mariah on the long passage across the atlantic. and it was the young sally hemmings who ended up accompanying mariah to paris. so sally hemmings came and lived with jefferson and his two daughters in paris and that may have been the beginning of their relationship or however you want to describe it, was in paris.
7:39 pm
and according to sally hemmings son madison, she became pregnant by jefferson in paris and it was there that she extracted a very important promise from him. and that was if she returned to virginia with him and bore the child, that in the future all of her children would be freed. this was a huge decision for her because when she was on french soil she was considered free. if she had remained in paris, she could have been a free woman. but because of what we think transpired, in other words this promise that she extracted from jefferson, she came back here. and when jefferson died, all of those children were freed. the sally hemmings and thomas jefferson controversy has been one that's being going on for over 200 years. but i think one thing that we
7:40 pm
really want to do now in the current initiatives you know that we're embarking here on the mountaintop is to focus on sally hemmings herself. we want to divide her from thomas jefferson and that controversy and really focus on her as a person. because i think in this 200-year debate or discussion she's always been a foil for jefferson. she's never been seen in her own light. and we want to restore her humanity. >> so we're standing inside of the space that will be interpreting as sally hemmings quarter. we believe it was this space or the one next to it to the west. perhaps you can imagine her here with her children. perhaps she's doing some mending of their clothes or cooking the last meal of the day or sitting around sharing stories of their day as well as their past. typical family activities that would have gone on in this space.
7:41 pm
so behind me what you see is the restoration of monticello's south wing. this wing was built in 1802. the south wing held a lot of economic service spaces as well as slave quarters in jefferson's time. after jefferson tied and monticello was sold, it was actually rebuilt a couple of times by the levy family in the 19th century. so in the 1940s the thomas jefferson foundation restored the south wing to what they thought was its best appearance. not only did they restore the kitchen and the smoke house and the cook's room, they put bathrooms into what was slave quarters and a dairy. it's much of this material that we've been removing and we' now at the point where we're restoring the spaces to what we think is a more accurate representation of what it looked like in jefferson's time. there's physical evidence as well as documentary evidence that tells us very specifically what jefferson wanted.
7:42 pm
even draws a plan of the south wing, a plan to scale showing how big the rooms were and what the rooms were used for. we know where the slave quarters were and the smoke house. that's all very clear. but when we removed the 1940s material we're able to find physical traces of where these walls would have been placed. and so we can put them back very very accurately. on the chimney stack we are remains of the plaster that we know was there in jefferson's time because there's a jefferson letter that talks about asking his workmen to plas plaster the space. we believe this is perhaps the jefferson aera hearth. there's also wonderful evidence of what the floors would have looked like. it's a small detail but we're really dedicated to getting as much -- as accurately as possible restoring the spaces.
7:43 pm
along the back wall what you see are the circa 1802 bricks there. they're laid on edge which is a very particular and it's a running bond. so we'll be able to restore the floor very accurately. we've got bricks that are the same size and we'll lay them the exact same way. there's evidence of where these partitions were that divide up the two spaces so you can see that the carpenters are starting to put back a seal plate but they've aligned the seal plate with what we call an architectural ghost. here is where a stud would have sat upon the stone wall in jefferson's time. and then the space was plasters and whitewashed against it. when the stud goes away, what's left is the gap in the finishes that tells us exactly where the stud would have been and its size. we're able to put it back. we have a ghost on this side, on the other side of the fair place that shows where the wall would have sat against the fair plair.
7:44 pm
a typical carpenter would love to have a nice straight wall, we're. putting it back just a bit out of square because that's the is telling us it sat in jefferson's time. what's going on right now is that craftsman from salvage rights, a local restoration company are putting up the timber frame. we know the size of the timber frame from jefferson's documents. they sbhould 4 by 3 inches. these craftsmen have prepared the framing off site like they would have. everything is prepped, assembles wib taken apart and brought on site and put it up. they're securing everything and then putting up, you know, bik nothing is the next step for the slave quarters and then siding like you see behind me on the kitchen for the dairy.
7:45 pm
so we are in the south pavilion cellar. and this is a build, one of the first buildings built on the mountaintop by jefferson finished in 1770. the space originally was a kitchen. we're standing 4 feet above the original floor level. why that is because jefferson raises the floor level in 1809 after he builds the south wing and he turns this into a wash house when the larger kitchen was built to the east. and the amazing thing in this space, not just, you know, that it's this early and that it survives, but also that earlier kitchen survived large lly intrt under this great fill. it's got a lot of artifacts mixed into it. we think of fill pretty boring. but in this case all of trash that they're bring in with the dirt they're pulling from somewhere contains cultural
7:46 pm
materials that the archaeologists are able to find. amazing pieces of ceramic, pins and thimbles, toothbrush heads. just a lot of great artifacts that will give us a sense of how people lived on the mountaintop. well in addition to these great artifacts what they also found was evidence of this first kitchen. and actually evidence that it changed over time. they've come down upon the original fireplace where jefferson's early meals, he and his wife lived in the room above for several years until the main house was ready for them to move in. that fireplace was uncovered as well as a stew stove, a high style kitchen appliance for the mid and late 18th century that would have let jefferson cook this high style french cuisine that he's probably having in williamsburg at the governor's palace. we suspected that he had a stew stove. we didn't know for sure. he draws it on a document in the
7:47 pm
1770s but we didn't know if it was built. but luckily enough tremendous evidence survives of this stove, this four-burner you could call it, this stove, rebel structure down below. right now the archaeologists have removed as much of the material as they're going to for this part of the project. and they're cleaning up the site for final photos and documentation. so you can see they're meticulously cleaning behind the bricks and they have measured everything in. it's really an intensive process, but it allows us to gather and record as much information on the site as possible so it can be analyzed in the future. so we expect to complete the exterior perhaps by later this spring and then the interiors we're still working on the exhibit plans, interpretation plans. those should be open to the public by spring of 2018. when we finish the restoration
7:48 pm
of the south wing we hope that visitor wills be able to come and experience perhaps a bit more of the slave life at monticello to understand how monticello functioned in the plantation context, so see what supported the main house. but we're also very excited about being able to put back sally hemmings quarter, this tremendously important person on the mountaintop, important in american history. >> it's important to remember that monticello is not just a home on a mountain. it's a plantation. 5,000 acres, 8 square miles nearly, and the majority of people that lived here in jefferson's time were enslaved african-americans. most of the labor that went into the building of this home was done by enslaved african-americans. jefferson did hire several white workmen, including and irish man by the names of james densemore.
7:49 pm
he was assisted by skilled craftsman of the enslaved community. monticello was thomas jefferson's home for his entire life. he's born on this plantation in 1743, just three miles away from where he builds this home. he inherits this plantation from his father. his father dies when jefferson is 14. as a young man he's going to inherit this land as well as the slaves that his father owns and jefferson is going to decide to build up here on this mountaintop at a very young age. you know, this is jefferson's home his entire life. jefferson is trying to use that plantation to make money, like most virginia plantation owners. he has cash crops, primarily tobacco and then later on in his life wheat. and he has mixed success in turning a profit off of this plantation. but here on this mountaintop, this is also the center of his home life as well. throughout his retirement years, once the house is complete, this
7:50 pm
home is filled with his family members, his daughter martha jefferson harandolph and her husband move into
7:51 pm
diplomatic gift that's they exchanged on the way to the pacific ocean and more with an american indian nation. he had lots of influential thinkers like the french philosopher and the french economist. he even had for musical friends, his arch nemesis, hamilton. hamilton was on the opposite side of the room a bust of himself. they would be opposed in life. i like to ask our visitors all
7:52 pm
the time why do you think he had it here? we don't know the real answer. one visitor said perhaps it was a political hunting trophy. of course, jefferson eventually won in the political battle which was hamilton becoming presidentst united states. the dining room is one of the brighter spaces at monticello because of the yellow paint on the walls. it would have been on the north side of the house, the coldest and darkest room of the house. breakfast and dinner would be served each day. jefferson is very famous for his political uses of food when he was president, he would multiple times a week invite politicians to dine in small dinner parties at his home both democratic republicans, his party, but also his adversaries, federalists. they would come on separate nights. but jefferson used the
7:53 pm
conversations to talk about politics but also other things of the day, philosophy, religion. he preferred kind of private interm intimate affairs where conversation could come to life. monlt chel yoe's dining room, there are a number of contraption ands convenience was would limit the number of people that would be required to be present for the dinners. so the food would come in through a side door with revolving shelves so that the waiters bringing the food from the kitchen underneath the house would not have to be entering the room and exiting the room nonstop. they could set the food outside the room and the butler could simply turn the door and bring the food into the room. the wine cellar was located beneath the dining room and on either side of the fire plashgs jefferson built into the manlt will wine waiters so the wine
7:54 pm
could be delivered straight up to the side of the fireplace. so owe used the contraptions to limit the coming and going but there say lot of work going on behind the scenes by the servants to make that dinner and the engaging conversation taking place possible. the back sisside of the house i private spaces for jefferson. and he had kind of his own private apartment on the south part of the house and consisted of three separate rooms. his cabin which we would call an officer st officer study and his lie braernt bed chamber. the bed chamber would have been the most private space. that is where jefferson would wake in the morning with the sun and he would begin his day each day with a cold foot bath and begin to read and respond to
7:55 pm
letters for a few hours before breakfast. it's also the space where he would return in the evenings or a few hours of read brg bing be bed as well. the other thing i can say about jefferson's bed chamber is that it's the space where he pass add way at the age of 83 which is a remarkable storey. he died on july 4th, 1826, the 50 ngth an verse riff the declaration of independence. >> jefferson is a very sad time at monticello for many different reasons. jefferson struggled with debt his whole life. he died $107,000 in debt that is many millions of dollars in today's money. and the family was unable to keep monlt chel yoe. they had to sell monticello, the land, the furnishings in the home and most heartbreak of all,
7:56 pm
they had to sell about 130 enslaved african-americans one of the slaves recalled that his death was a tichl great uncertainty. can you imagine that enslaved people here would be worried at the death of fom as jefferson and that meant their families would be split part which ended up happening in many cases. the property in the 1830s would be bought by a man named levy who is one of the first naval officers of jewish faith in the united states. the family began the process of tracking down the original objects of the home and in 1923 it was july levy's nephew who sold this property to the thomas jefferson foundation.
7:57 pm
which continued to own them as a nonprofit museum and has since 1923. onest things that we're striving to bring back to the guest experience at monticello is a sense that monticello is more than a house on a hill. the house is incredibly well preserved. and we want people to walk in jefferson's footsteps. we also want them to understand that monticello had nearly 200 people living here during jefferson's time and most of them were enslaved. so when you walk outside the houts, you look down on the road and can you understand that there was a center industry and enslaved life there. and that if you tour the south wing and the north wing and under the house, you will see that this was a home for the people that jefferson enslaved here as well.
7:58 pm
it was their work that made monticello what it was and many senses made jefferson who he was. when people leave monticello, i hope they get a sense of the complexity of jefferson but also how relevant his story is to the nation that we became. he's a man that wrote "all men are created equal" yet is a slave holder. here is a man that truly believed that government should be representative of the people even though he was very much a virginia aristocrat. i hope you understand that while monticello was jefferson's life work and he was always trying to perfect it, he also viewed the united states as something that
7:59 pm
would never be perfected and that would need to continue to be a work in progress. >> thursday at 7:00 p.m. eastern, join american history tv for a live tour of the museum of the american revolution in philadelphia. the museum's president and ceo michael quinn and collections and exhibitions vice president scott stephenson will introduce artifacts and exhibits throughout the museum including george washington's war tenlt and a peefrs the old north bridge from the battle of concord. hear stories about the american revolution and participate in the live program with your phone calls and tweets. watch american history tv, live from the museum of the american revolution thursday starting at 7:00 p.m. eastern on c-span3. next, on american history tv, pulitzer prize winning
8:00 pm
historian talks about how the founders valued education, viewed slavery and persevered in the face of hardship. he discusses how the ideals shaped american sow. following his talk, he sits down to talk about why studying history is important, what his writing process is like and how he started writing books. he also previews the upcoming work about the pioneers of the northwest territory this was part of the seriesst founders in palm beach, florida. >> wow. and thank you, all. good morning. and i'm really happy that there are students here today from cardinal lumin and also from palm beach atlantic university. ultimately the people i want to reach most are the children and grandchildren of all the people in this room. but today i'm introducing a dear fri


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on