“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” –Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence, 1776
Thomas Jefferson helped create a new nation based on individual freedom and self-government—yet he remained a slaveholder throughout his life. This powerful, revealing, and deeply personal exhibition follows the stories of six slave families who lived and worked at Jefferson’s plantation— the Fossett, Granger, Gillette, Hemings, Hern, and Hubbard families—and their descendants who fought for justice and helped bring to light their ancestors’ lives and values. Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello features more than 280 artifacts that represent each family’s trade as well as personal items of Jefferson’s including a walking stick, chess set, books, spectacles, and replica of the portable desk used to draft the Declaration of Independence. Explore the story of slavery in early U.S. history while discovering the struggle and the self-determination at the heart of America’s founding. Leave being inspired to discover your own family heritage and history.
This exhibition is presented by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello in partnership with the National Museum of African American History and Culture. All objects in this exhibition are from the collection of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello, unless otherwise noted.
Additional support for the National Constitution Center’s presentation of this exhibition was provided by a grant from the Pennsylvania Abolition Society.
For a further look at Jefferson in the context of his time spent in Philadelphia, Constitution Center visitors are encouraged to visit Jefferson, Philadelphia, and the Founding of a Nation at the American Philosophical Society Museum located in Philosophical Hall, 104 South Fifth Street (next to Independence Hall), as well as download APS’ Jefferson’s Walking Tour of Philadelphia.