in front of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's majestic home. It's
architecture reveals Jefferson's discomfort with slavery.
Jefferson's famous Monticello estate encompassed 5,000 acres. To
work the estate, Jefferson owned about 120 slaves--men, women and
children, living close to the house and at four farms.
author of the Declaration of Independence, which asserted that "all
men are created equal," Jefferson designed Monticello to benefit
from slavery while keeping the uncomfortable reality hidden from
"Thos. Jefferson, Slavemaster", Fraser Neiman, Director
of Archeology for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, takes Alan on
a tour of underground passageways, revolving cupboards and a wine
elevator, all methods Jefferson devised to keep his slaves hidden
called slavery an "abominable crime," but he nevertheless sought
to maximize the productivity of his slaves. An insurance plan drawn
by Jefferson in 1796 has been the basis for archeology along Mulberry
Row. Close to the mansion, Mulberry Row row was the focus of many
of Jefferson's slave-based enterprises, including a nail factory,
a carpenter's shop, and a blacksmith.
believes he's identified a revealing pattern in the sub-floor pits
slaves used to store personal belongings. Many have been excavated
on Mulberry Row. Between about 1770 and 1800, slave houses got smaller,
and fewer pits were dug. Eventually there were no pits. According
to Neiman, the absence of sub floor pits is evidence of a move to
smaller, family-based living arrangements for slaves.
items, like these buttons, found in sub-floor pits beneath slave
quarters reveal some surprising things about the daily lives
thinks the key to these changes in slave living is tobacco. Since
Jamestown it had created wealth and demanded slave labor, organized
in gangs. But in the 1790s the market collapsed. Jefferson, along
with many other slave owners, switched to wheat, a more complicated
plant requiring crop rotation and diversification, plows, draft
animals and, above all, skilled laborers.
result, says Neiman, was a profound change. There was less coercion,
more trust, more rewards -- rewards that included the chance to
live in your own family house. Slaves, he believes, quickly grasped
the opportunity to pry a better life from their masters.
more on this topic, see the web feature:
These American Lives
Slave Housing at Monticello