Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty opens in Fair Park

Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty opens in Fair Park

Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty, a groundbreaking exhibit is making its first appearance West of the Mississippi in Dallas. Hosted within Fair Park’s African American museum, the exhibition explores the lives of people enslaved at Monticello, the home of the United States third president Thomas Jefferson.  It’s an exhibit that was at least 50 years in the making, but well worth the wait.

The exhibition details the seemingly contradictory nature of Jefferson, who wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “All men are created equal,” yet held people in bondage.

“What people will see is a culmination of hard work, research, archeology as well as a lot of contributions from descendants,” says Gayle Jessup White, Community Engagement Coordinator for the Slavery at Monticello exhibit, “a lot of what was excavated was painful… because slavery was a very challenging topic to discuss and millions of people spent their lives oppressed and treated as property.”

Never before seen artifacts are featured in the exhibit, which has more than 300 objects, works of art, and documents from Jefferson’s Virginia plantation.  In addition, a special section of the exhibit is dedicated to Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman who negotiated freedom for her children, all fathered by Jefferson.

“Ultimately the story that people walk away with is one of inspiration,” White says, “because you see a people who managed within the confines of a situation to find lives for themselves, to form families, to form love relationships and to give their children a foundation so they would eventually become part of the American fabric.”

Watch the video below to see an interview with Gayle Jessup White,a descendent of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings as she discusses why the exhibit is important to her.

The African American Museum hosts the exhibit from Sept. 22 through December 31.  Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children and free for children 3 and under and African American Museum members. Tickets may be purchased in person at the African American Museum.  All proceeds benefit the African American Museum.

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