New exhibit at the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia explores the lives of the enslaved community at Monticello

Published: Jan. 15, 2020 at 6:25 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia is getting ready to release its newest exhibit, “Paradox of Liberty: Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello” to the public on Jan. 18th.

It explores the lives of slaves who lived and worked at Monticello, some of whom shared Jefferson’s blood.

Currently, Richmond is the only venue scheduled to host the exhibit in this region.

“The paradox of liberty is a must-see for anybody who wants to understand where our country has been, where it is today and most importantly where it’s going in the future,” President of Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation, Hunter Applewhite said.

“It’s our ancestors on whose backs America was built,” Monticello Community Engagement Officer, Gayle Jessup White said. “I didn’t know that enslaved Cate and James Hubbard were my four-times grandparents or that Peter Hemings and his wife Bessie, a house slave, were my three-times grandparents.”

It was an emotional moment for those like Gayle White who helped play a part in bringing the exhibition to the Black History Museum.

Just like for Gayle White, family history is important to all.

While some people are keenly aware of where their family came from, many families’ history has been lost.

“It’s an exhibit that needs to be seen, it needs to be discussed,” Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia tour guides, Vivian Stith-Williamson and Sherrard Dyson Gardner said.

The new exhibit, Paradox of Liberty: Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello, helps to make the connection between yesterday and today as it explores the lives of the slave community at Monticello.

“We want to talk about how courageous and strong our ancestors are because if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be here today,” Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, Adele Johnson said.

While everyone knows that Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence...In his life span, Jefferson also owned more than 600 slaves.

“These were real living and breathing people they weren’t regarding as people but they’re our people and no longer is it his story it’s our story,” Stith-Williamson and Gardner said.

By exploring Jefferson’s plantation, the museum has recovered more than 300 artifacts, documents and photographs, all giving a voice to the men, women and children who lived here.

“This exhibit is our largest ever there are 340 artifacts here it takes up our whole second floor, Johnson said. “Were telling a full story a complete story with oral history and artifacts and panels of information.".

Johnson says showcasing these untold stories ensures our ancestors are never forgotten.

“Black History is a part of American History, America was built on the backs of our ancestors," Johnson said. “African Americans who were brought to this country were brought here for that reason to build America.”

The exhibition will be in Richmond from Jan. 18th to April 18th.

For information on pricing, click here.

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