Daily VideoAugust 11, 2017
James Madison’s Montpelier tells the stories of the enslaved people who lived there
- Montpelier, the home of James Madison, recently opened a new permanent exhibit at the Virginia estate to inform visitors about the lives of the enslaved people* held by the nation’s fourth president.
- Madison authored the U.S. Constitution and pondered about liberty and democracy with his fellow Founding Fathers, but he owned about 300 enslaved people. Even though the original Constitution never mentioned slavery, economic, political and ideological language in it cemented the institution.
- The title of the new interactive exhibit, “The Mere Distinction of Color,” comes from a line in Madison’s notes during the 1787 Constitutional Convention. He wrote, “We have never seen the mere distinction of color in a most enlightened period of time a ground for the most oppressive dominion exercised by man over man.”
- The exhibit will join other ways that visitors can explore enslaved people’s stories, including a slave cabin, a slave cemetery, and an archaeological dig where artifacts are unearthed regularly.
- Kat Imhoff, the CEO of Montpelier, said, “If you said that you were not going to allow or enable in some way or codify slavery, without ever mentioning it, you were never going to get enough votes to ratify the U.S. Constitution…So, James Madison, in those early days, chooses the union over really what he knows in his heart is the right thing to do.” She added that even in their own time period, Founding Fathers had trouble explaining their double standards even to themselves.
- Essential question: How can historians convey the most difficult aspects of U.S. history, such as slavery?
- What contradictions were evident in the language the Founding Fathers used in the Constitution and their practices in everyday life? Provide specific examples.
- What do exhibits like the one at Montpelier need to do to tell enslaved people’s stories effectively? Explain.
ratify: to sign or give formal consent to, making it officially valid
*enslaved person: In recent years, a debate has ensued over the use of the term slave vs. enslaved person; perhaps you will find this debate is worthy of discussion with your students. Criticism of the term slave comes from the passivity of that noun in that it strips enslaved people of their dignity as human beings, while others maintain that the abhorrent way in which slaves were treated calls for the word to continue to be used.
Tooltip of related stories
Tooltip of more video block
Submit Your Student Voice
Thousands of evacuees sought refuge in Houston’s convention center during Hurricane Harvey, but their pets were not allowed in with them. New emergency service groups and animal shelters in Houston are taking a step to include animals and pets in disaster planning. Continue readingArts & CultureEconomicsHealthScienceSocial StudiesU.S.UncategorizedWorld
Hillary Clinton, the former senator, secretary of state, first lady and presidential candidate published her memoir, “What Happened,” last week about the 2016 presidential election in which she lost to Donald Trump. Continue readingArts & CultureEconomicsHealthScienceSocial StudiesU.S.UncategorizedWorld
Seven million Floridians remain without power along with 1.5 million people in Georgia and millions more in the Caribbean after Hurricane Irma struck those areas over the last week. Continue readingArts & CultureEconomicsHealthScienceSocial StudiesU.S.UncategorizedWorld
Monday marks the 16th anniversary of the attacks on September 11th. Discuss with your students how the U.S. has changed over the last 16 years as a result of 9/11. Continue readingArts & CultureEconomicsHealthScienceSocial StudiesU.S.UncategorizedWorld
Students will have many questions and concerns about Hurricane Harvey in the coming days. Use this PBS lesson to help you discuss the effects of extreme weather events with your students and helpful media literacy tools when it comes to media coverage of the hurricane. Continue readingArts & CultureEconomicsHealthScienceSocial StudiesU.S.UncategorizedWorld