Natl. Constitution Center reveals new slavery exhibit

Watch the report from Action News? Lisa Thomas-Laury.
April 8, 2014 4:18:31 PM PDT
The National Constitution Center is taking a revealing look at the life of slaves at the home of President Thomas Jefferson.

'Slavery at Jefferson's Monticello' follows the lives of several enslaved families at Jefferson's plantation in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Fossett, Gillette, Granger, Hemings, Hern and Hubbard families fought for justice and helped bring to light their ancestors' lives and values.

Of those families, the Hemmings are perhaps the best known.

Elizabeth Hemings was the matriarch of Monticello after Jefferson's wife died. Her daughter, Sally was Jefferson's concubine, bearing him four children.

Bill Webb is a descendant of the Hemings family.

"Growing up in a segregated school in West Virginia and here we stand in Philadelphia today with this exhibit," said Webb.

His great-grandfather was George Edmonson, a Union Army soldier, who was Elizabeth Hemings great-great grandson.

Mulberry Row was the hub of activity at Monticello, where slaved lived and worked.

The Monticello plantation was dependent on the labor of field hands, blacksmiths, cabinet makers, other artisans and domestic workers, who toiled from sunrise to sunset six days a week.

The exhibit features artifacts from each family's trade.

They labored while Jefferson helped create a new nation based on individual freedom, yet he remained a slaveholder throughout his life.

He was the one who coined the phrase, 'We have a wolf by the ears that we can neither hold on to nor safely let go.'

"He never thought that the American Slave could coexist with American citizenry in any kind of way that was positive," said Dr. Rex Ellis, National Museum of African-American History.

'Slavery at Jefferson's Monticello' opens to the public Wednesday, April 9th and runs through October 19th.

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