American Icons: Monticello

July 05, 2018

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Monticello

Monticello

Credit:

Monticello by Ernest McGray Jr/CC BY 2.0

Monticello is home renovation run amok. Thomas Jefferson was as passionate about building his house as he was about founding the United States; he designed Monticello to the fraction of an inch and never stopped changing it.

Yet Monticello was also a plantation worked by slaves, some of them Jefferson’s own children. Today, his white and black descendants still battle over who can be buried at Monticello. It was trashed by college students, saved by a Jewish family and celebrated by FDR. With Stephen Colbert, filmmaker James Ivory and artist Maira Kalman.

(Originally aired October 22, 2010)

Monticello Update: 
The slave quarters at Monticello — including what was likely Sally Hemings’ room — have been turned into a new exhibit that grapples with issues that Monticello has largely ignored for decades. Monticello will also be phasing out the traditional “house tour,” which focused on Jefferson’s accomplishments, with little mention to slavery.

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Exterior shot of the exhibit, “The Life of Sally Hemings.”

Exterior shot of the exhibit, “The Life of Sally Hemings.”

Credit:

Stacey Evans / Monticello Exhibits

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“The Life of Sally Hemings” exhibit

“The Life of Sally Hemings” exhibit

Credit:

Stacey Evans / Monticello Exhibits

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“The Life of Sally Hemings” exhibit

“The Life of Sally Hemings” exhibit

Credit:

Tom Daly

American Icons: Monticello was produced by Amanda Aronczyk. The Jefferson family graveyard story was produced by Ann Heppermann. The actor David Strathairn was the voice of Thomas Jefferson. David Krasnow edited the show.

Music was provided by David Prior, with John Matthias for Small Design Firm, and can also be heard at Monticello's interactive exhibition, “Boisterous Sea of Liberty.”

American Icons is made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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