Black History

Sally Hemings Showcased in New Exhibit at Monticello

A major restoration project at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello plantation — including an exhibit dedicated to Sally Hemings, his former slave and mother of several of his children — was celebrated this month.

On June 16, the major restoration initiative at the Charlottesville, Virginia, plantation — made possible by We Hold These Truths: The Campaign for Monticello — was celebrated.

The “Life of Sally Hemings” exhibit, in the south wing of the facility, has been newly restored and is now open to the public. Monticello also commemorated the 25th year of the Getting Word Oral History Project, which collects and shares the recollections of descendants of the more than 400 men, women and children enslaved at Monticello.

“We make history,” Leslie Greene Bowman, president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, told The Informer. “Our history is ever-changing and moving forward. If we don’t know where we have been, how do we know where we are going?”

Lucia C. Stanton, founder of the Getting Word project, reflected during the event on the years of effort to bring the project to fruition. Bill Webb, a descendant of Brown Colbert, another Jefferson slave, also expounded on what the day meant to him and his family.

David M. Rubinstein moderated a three-person panel — Annette Gordon-Reed, Jon Meacham and Darren Walker — that discussed and debated the life of Jefferson.

Melody Barnes, senior fellow at the University of Virginia’s Miler Center, gave the summary remarks while Karen Briggs, a world-renowned violinist, accompanied a band for a rousing rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” that drew a standing ovation.

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