Friday Photo: New Exhibit on Jefferson and Slavery

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A new exhibit called “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty” opens today at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Jointly organized by the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the exhibit explores the contradiction inherent in Jefferson’s advocacy of universal rights and his ownership of slaves. The exhibit is unique in that the temporary exhibit at NMAH is accompanied by a permanent exhibit at Monticello, Jefferson’s plantation in Charlottesville, VA, that uses outdoor signage to explain the evidence of African-American life and labor found at the plantation through archaeological digs. As well as providing specific information on Jefferson’s views, the exhibit provides more general information on the context of slavery in the 18th century. One image included in the exhibit and on its website ( is this 1796 watercolor by Benjamin Henry Latrobe:

Image from the collection of the Maryland Historical Society

The watercolor, which is from the collection of the Maryland Historical Society, is entitled An Overseer Doing His Duty, Near Fredericksburg. It provides a stark view of the reality of 18th century life and work, and a useful reminder that as interpreters of history we need to teach our visitors about the people whose lives may not be as immediately visible but whose labor made the lavish lifestyles and grand homes of the upper-class possible.

Posted on Jan 27, 2012 in by Hammond-Harwood House



Hammond-Harwood House

The mission of the Hammond-Harwood House Association is to preserve and to interpret the architecturally significant Hammond-Harwood House Museum and its collection of fine and decorative arts, and to explore the diverse social history associated with its occupants, both free and enslaved, for the purposes of education and appreciation.
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