• Joanne Jacobs

Jefferson is out at Monticello


Monticello has gone woke, write Mary Kay Linge and Jon Levine in the New York Post. Tours of Thomas Jefferson's home stress slavery as part of a campaign to "balance the historical record."


“The tour guides play ‘besmirchment derby,’ never missing a chance to defame this brilliant, complex man,” Stephen Owen of Enochville, NC, wrote on Facebook.


“People on my tour seemed sad and demoralized,” Jeffrey Tucker, founder of the libertarian Brownstone Institute, told The Post. His guide was "surly and dismissive" about Jefferson's accomplishments.


Jefferson's music room, is decorated with Gilbert Stuart’s presidential portrait and classical busts, Linge and Levine write.


It also includes a large modern painting by Titus Kaphar that was commissioned for Juneteenth. The figure’s “hands and face of featureless tar” represent “the faceless lives of all who served in bondage, witnessing but never recognized,” an identifying card explains.


Monticello used to celebrate Jefferson, write Linge and Levine.


In the past, the managers of Monticello sanitized Jefferson’s history for the 25 million tourists who have flocked there since it was opened to the public in 1923. References to slavery were few, and signs labeled “Servants’ Quarters” marked sites where Jefferson’s slaves once lived.
. . . on a visit this week, The Post found, the grievance has become the predominant theme at Monticello, from the ticket booth in the visitors center — decorated with a contemporary painting of Jefferson’s weeping slaves — to its final gift-shop display.

Outdoors, guides begin their tours by reminding visitors Europeans took the land from the natives by "a lot of violence."


On a patio outside the snack show, placards address civil rights topics. “Is ‘all men are created equal’ being lived up to in our country today?” one reads. "When will we know when it is?"


The Farm Shop store "displays five titles on Jefferson’s slaves — and a single biography of the man himself," write Linge and Levine.


I did Junior Great Books from fifth through ninth grade. (I was in the pilot group.) Every year, we started by discussing the Declaration of Independence. It took years to get past "all men are created equal." We knew Jefferson owned slaves, and we struggled with that. I don't think we ever got beyond "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."


I think it's fine for Monticello visitors to think about what "all men are created equal" meant to Jefferson and means to us now. But Jefferson was a lot more than the man who had sex with Sally Hemings, his late wife's half-sister and his slave.


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