“Slavery made the world Thomas Jefferson knew.”-Paradox of Liberty exhibition website

Thomas Jefferson

“At any one time, about 130 enslaved men, women, and children lived and worked at [Thomas Jefferson’s] Monticello,” according to Monticello.org.

There is currently an exhibition at the American History Museum in Washington, D.C., entitled Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty. 

According to the Smithsonian’s website, “This exhibition explores slavery and enslaved people in America through the lens of Jefferson’s Monticello plantation…. The exhibition provides a glimpse into the lives of six slave families … living at Monticello and reveals how the paradox of slavery in Jefferson’s world is relevant for generations beyond Jefferson’s lifetime.”

According to Nancy Whitelaw, author of Thomas Jefferson: Philosopher and President, Jefferson was full of contradictions. “He depended on slave labor to maintain his affluent lifestyle,” she wrote, “but he wrote movingly about the importance of ending slavery.”

At the same time, however, abolishing slavery all together was irresponsible, Jefferson thought. He once said, “As far as I can judge from the experiments which have been made, to give liberty to, or rather, to abandon persons whose habits have been formed in slavery is like abandoning children.”

The exhibition’s website says, “Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration and called slavery an ‘abominable crime,’ yet he was a lifelong slaveholder. Fearful of dividing the fragile new nation, Jefferson and other founders who opposed slavery did not insist on abolishing it.”

The exhibition will run until October 12, 2012. So if you are in the D.C. area, go check it out!

Adrianne Loggins
Associate Editor

For more information about Thomas Jefferson, check out Nancy Whitelaw’s Thomas Jefferson: Philosopher and President (9781883846811)

Published in: on June 8, 2012 at 11:13 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , ,