This week I took another trip down the El to 5th street to see the latest exhibit at the National Constitution Center, Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello. It’s a small exhibit, at least for the NCC, but it’s rich with information about life on a southern plantation, with an added twist of a former President at the front of it all.
Inside the display, you’ll find the personal stories of several slave families at Monticello. One family, the Hemings, was even tied directly to Thomas Jefferson, as he fathered a number of children with Sally Hemings. You get a detailed description of what life was like for these slaves working six days a week from dawn to dusk as blacksmiths, chefs, gardeners, farmers, carpenters, and other 18th century professions.
The exhibit also includes a philosophical perspective on the period of Enlightenment that led to the American Revolution. You see bits of Jefferson’s writings leading up to the Declaration of Independence, giving you fascinating insight on where all of the good “all men are created equal” stuff came from. It makes you really respect Jefferson. But at the same time, you see the trauma he caused 130 people as he enslaved them for years and then sold them at his death. How can a man who believed that all men have a natural right to liberty treat so many people so terribly?
Anyway, you should see it for yourself, I can’t really describe it. It only took me an hour and I read everything, so if you do decide to take a visit, you’ll have plenty of time to see the NCC’s main exhibit, or even another one of the museums that the Teen Council Members are writing about! But do it soon, the exhibit closes on October 19th!