Univ. students visit Jefferson's Monticello estate

By Michelle Reed

Contributing Writer

Nestled in the hills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Monticello is more than just an architectural treasureit’s a place that teaches visitors about America’s past.

On April 14, a bus full of University students made its way toward the hilltop home of former president Thomas Jefferson. The trip was one of the culminating events of the semester-long interdisciplinary series, “Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson: An American Origins Story,” sponsored by the Griot Institute for Africana Studies. The series hosted an array of visiting scholars and artists who aimed to closely examine the relationship between Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemings. For those who participated, the visit to Monticello offered invaluable insight into Jefferson’s life.

With its idyllic mountain views, sweeping lawns and blooming tulips, Monticello is a springtime sight to behold. Before setting foot on the plantation, the tour group was guided through Monticello’s recently built museum. They learned about Jefferson’s initial architectural vision for Monticello and his eventual teardown and redesign of this home. The house now consists of three levels, adorned on top with its famous white dome. Jefferson once said of Monticello, “I am as happy nowhere else, and in no other society.” The visiting group of students and faculty were shown the inner chambers of the house, including Jefferson’s own bedroom, his study and the family dining room.

In addition to the tour of the house’s interior, University members explored many of the plantation’s other spaces: the kitchen, the gardens, the well-protected wine cellar and the incredibly tiny rooms where families of slaves lived. A highlight of the tour was Mulberry Row, an area of intense labor where Jefferson’s slaves farmed tobacco and other crops, worked in the blacksmith shop or nailery and crafted architectural woodwork and furniture in the joinery. Monticello tour guides discussed the large contradiction of Jefferson’s life: he wrote much about the tyranny of slavery, but owned slaves until his dying day.

To learn more about Monticello, visit www.monticello.org.



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