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tv   American Artifacts Mulberry Row and Thomas Jeffersons Monticello  CSPAN  February 15, 2021 1:31pm-2:03pm EST

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be sure to join the discussion with your phone calls, facebook comments, text messages and tweets. tuesday morning, u.s. election assistance commission chair benjamin tomlin testifies on election administration issues and house administration -- at a house administration subcommittee hearing. watch online at or listen with the free c-span radio app. today is president's day. we will focus our programming on the lives of presidents. thomas jefferson is one of america's most celebrated founders, but also controversial. today, monticello is extending its focus beyond his accomplishments to the enslaved people who worked on his plantation.
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>> there would have been no place on this mountaintop without slavery. we want to restore that, they cut known to visitors who come today. -- that, make that known to visitors who come today. we are now in the middle of re-creating or restoring mulberry row, the main plantation street, as well as the attachment to the house behind us. all of this is part of an effort
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to sort of shift the focus away from just jefferson and talk about the dozens of other people who essentially made his life possible. right now, we are actually just near jefferson's main house, the palladian mansion he built throughout his life, and we are sending -- standing next to mulberry row, the main street through monticello. through research, we know over 20 workshops, storehouses and dwellings lined this street. there were enslaved families here, indentured servants, hired white artisans, and several of these workshops or supervised by jefferson and members of his family. this is the hub of industry at monticello, which is not just this mountaintop, but a 5000 acre plantation.
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that is about eight square miles, so this plantation is enormous, but the center of activity is really right here. if you had been here in jefferson's day, you would have seen carriages coming up and down this road. you would have heard the noise of chickens, dogs. you would have smelled the smoke in the air. you would have heard hammers and saws. there were dozens of people here, white and black, free and enslaved, all working for jeffersons plantation. from jefferson's copious record keeping, we know he owned 607 human beings in his lifetime, but at any given time, 130 to 140 would have been working at monticello, and that would've been not just this mountaintop but the surrounding farms as well. this is a tremendously dynamic and fluid place where enslaved people were coming and going, living in different areas, and
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jefferson interacted with all of them in different ways, but it was not like he was isolated here on his mountaintop. he take daily rides about his plantation. -- he used to take daily rides throughout his plantation, not only to remind slaves that he was their owner, but also that he had a kind of knowledge of what was going on across these eight square miles. mulberry row was an experiment for jefferson. this plantation street was very unique in the larger context of virginia plantations. he wanted it to be an experiment , a way to reform slavery, and he wanted to do that by imparting trades to enslaved people, so rather than them being just field laborers, they could learn a skill here, blacksmithing, carpentry, house joining. those were a few of the skills enslaved people learned.
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jefferson considered this an improvement over being out in the fields to tend to tobacco or other crops. if you know jefferson is the author of the declaration, the words all men are created equal, and find out he owned slaves, he looks bad, but in jefferson's mine he was not a hypocrite because he believed he was making changes to the institution of slavery that would pave the way for abolition. he is trying to reform it, alleviate material positions, changing housing, and he believes this is a gradual process that will inevitably result in emancipation down the line. we know more about monticello than any other plantation in north america. it is the best documented estate. because of that, we know more about the enslaved people here than anywhere else. we have been able to put
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together the most comprehensive portrait of life for enslaved people during jefferson's time, but beyond it as well. i think that sort of lens a unique inhuman portrait -- sort of lends a unique and human portrait of the institution. emphasizing the humanity of slave people, and that they were able to preserve themselves and their families. sally hemmings was part of a large enslaved family at monticello that numbered about 80 people. she was the daughter of elizabeth hemmings. we do believe that, years after his wife's death, jefferson fathered six children with sally hemmings, four of whom survived to adulthood. their names were eston, madison,
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beverly and harriet. so sally hemmings was part of an inheritance. it is important to remember that slaves were property and could be inherited through marriage and bought and sold. when jefferson married his wife, martha, in 1772, she was the daughter of a wealthy slave trader named john wales. it was there john wales that jefferson inherited 135 slaves and sally hemmings was one of those. so she was not born at monticello. she was born on the eastern shore and arrives in about 1773. sally hemmings is a person who has been shrouded in mystery because we know so little about her. there are only four references to her, descriptions of her, that exist in the last 200 years. jefferson himself never wrote about her explicitly, so she
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remains this very mysterious figure, but i think it is important to emphasize that she was related to jefferson's wife. she was martha wales jefferson's half-sister, and she may have even resembled jefferson's wife. so in 1784, jefferson took up a post as essentially a trade ambassador in paris. he was trying to forge treaties with the french and other countries so that the new u.s. could survive in the wake of the revolution, but he wanted to have his daughters with him. he wanted to have martha and his youngest daughter. but he also wanted someone, an enslaved woman or girl, to accompany mariah, his daughter, on the long passage. it was the young sally hemmings who ended up accompanying his daughter to paris, so sally
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hemmings came and lived with jefferson and his two daughters in paris, and that may have been the beginning of their relationship or however you want to describe it. according to sally hemmings's son, madison, she became pregnant by jefferson in paris, and it was there that she extracted a very important promise from him, and that was, if she returned to virginia with him and the child, that -- him and the child, that, in the future, she would be freed. on french soil, she was considered free. if you remain in paris, she could have been -- if she remained in paris, she could have been a free woman. but because we think of this promise she extracted from
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jefferson, she returned, and when she died, her children were freed. the sally hemmings and thomas jefferson controversy has been brewing for 200 years, but what we wanted to do in the current initiative we are embarking on on the mountaintop, is to look at sally hemmings herself, divider from jefferson and the controversy by looking at her as a person. she has always been a foil for jefferson. she has been seen in her own light. we want to restore humanity. -- to restore her humanity. >> we are standing inside of the space we will be interpreting as sally hemmings's quarter. we believe it was this space or the one next to it. you can imagine her here with her children. maybe she is mending clothes
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were cooking the last meal of the day or they are sitting around and sharing stories of their day, typical family activities going on in this space. behind me, what you see is the restoration of monticello's south wing. this wing was built in 1802. the south wing held a lot of domestic servant spaces as well as sleep orders in jefferson's time. after jefferson died and monticello was sold, it was rebuilt a couple times in the 19th century. in the 1940's, the thomas jefferson foundation restored south wing, but what they thought -- weighing, to what they thought was it best appearance. they also put bathrooms into what were slave quarters. so it is much of this material we have been removing over the past couple months. we are at the point where we are
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restoring the spaces to what we think is a more accurate representation of what they would have looked like at the time. we know that because there is physical and documentary evidence. specifically, what jefferson wanted. he had plans of the south wing, a plaintiff scale, so it is tremendous -- wing, a plaintiff scale -- a plan to scale, so it is tremendous epperson of what the rooms -- tremendous evidence of what the rooms were for. we can put the walls back accurately. on the chimney stack, we have the remains of the plaster that we know was there in jefferson's time, because jefferson asked his workmen to plaster this space. we believe this is perhaps the jefferson-ehrhardt where an --
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jefferson-era hearth, where an enslaved family would cook a meal. what the floors would look like is a small detail, but we are dedicated to getting as much as accurately as possible restoring these spaces. along this back wall, what you see are the circa 1802 bricks. we can tell they are laid on edge, which is a little particular. we are able to restore the floor accurately. we have bricks of the same size and we will lay them the same way. there is also evidence of where these partitions were that divided the two spaces. you can see that the carpenters are starting to put back the sill plates, but they have aligned them with an architectural tool. here is where the stud would have sat up on the stonewall inn jefferson's time. -- would have sat upon the
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stone wall in jefferson's time. this well was canted. -- wall was canted. so we are able to, even though a typical carpenter would love to have a nice, straight wall, we're putting it back square because that is the way the evidence is telling us. so what is going on right now is that -- a restoration company is putting the timber frame up. we know the size of the frame from jefferson's documents. it tells us how big it should be, four by three inches. so they have prepared all the -- like they would have done in the 18th century. everything is taken apart and brought on site and put up. what is going on now is that they are setting the morrises
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-- mortises, setting everything. we are in the south civilian seller, a building -- civilian cellar, one of the first buildings built by jefferson, 1770. we are standing about four feet above the original floor level. why that is is because jefferson raises the floor level in 1809 and turned this into a wash house when the larger kitchen was built to these. the amazing thing in this space, not just that it is from early and that it survived, but also that earlier kitchen survived largely intact underneath this great phil.
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i call it -- great fill because it has artifacts. we think of fills as boring, but it contains a lot of cultural materials. archaeologists are able to find amazing pieces of ceramic, pins, toothbrush heads, just a lot of great artifacts that will give us a sense of how it was to live on the mountaintop. they also found evidence of his first kitchen. the evidence changed over time. they have come down upon the original fireplace, where jefferson's early mills -- you know, he and his wife lived in the room above. that fireplace was uncovered as well as a stone, a high style kitchen appliance for the mid-18th century that would have led jefferson cook's high style
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french cuisine -- what have left jefferson cook his high style french cuisine. on a document in the 1770's -- but we did not know if it was built. luckily enough, tremendous evidence survives of this stone, this -- survives of this stove, this four burner. the archaeologists have removed as much of the material as they are going to for this part of the project and they are cleaning up the site for final photos and documentation. you can see they are meticulously cleaning behind, between the bricks, they have measured everything. it is really an intensive process, but it allows us to gather and record as much information as possible that can be analyzed in the future. we expect to complete the
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exterior perhaps by later this spring, and then the interiors, we are still working on the exhibit plans. those should be open to the public by spring of 2018. the restoration of the south wing. we hope the visitors will be able to come and experience more of the slave life at donatello, learn how -- life at monticello, learn how it functioned in the plantation context, but we are excited to put back sally hemmings's quarters, and extremely important person on the mountaintop and in american history. it is important member that monticello is not just a home on a mountain. it is a plantation of 5000 acres, eight square miles nearly, and the majority of the people who lived here were enslaved african americans in jefferson's time.
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is important for member that most of the labor that went into the building of this home was done by enslaved african americans. jefferson did hire several white workers, including an irishman. he was assisted by several members of the enslaved community. monticello was really thomas jefferson's home for his entire life. he is born on this plantation in 1743 just three miles away from where he builds this home. he inherits this plantation from his father. his father dies when jefferson is 14. as a young man, he inherits this land and the slaves his father owns. jefferson is going to decide to build on this mountaintop at a young age. this is jefferson's home his entire life. jefferson is trying to use that plantation to make money, like most virginia plantation owners, he has a cash crop, primarily tobacco and, later in his life,
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wheat. he has mixed success in turning a profit off of his plantation, but here on this mountaintop, this is the center of his home life as well. throughout his retirement years, once the house is complete, his home is filled with his family members, his daughter, martha jefferson randolph and her husband moved into this home, so it would have been filled with family members and guests throughout jefferson's retirement years as a very public official and somebody who gained fame not only for being president but for writing the declaration of independence. he would have hosted a perpetual round of company here. guests would have come into this room where we are now, the hall. depending on who they were, they would have had to wait for a chance to see jefferson. we have a lot of accounts of those guests of their visit to monticello. for them, this would have been something new they did not
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necessarily expect. one guest referred to this strange furniture on the walls. one guest call this room cluttered. he filled this room with knowledge. jefferson set this up almost like a museum or a cabinet of curiosities. he is filling this room with the things he thinks are interesting, that interest him, but also influential people, influential ideas in the creation of this country, so jefferson had maps of all the known continents around the room. he had natural history items, animal life in north america, fossilized bones, american indian artifacts that would have been displayed here that had been sent to him during his presidency by lewis and clark, diplomatic gifts they exchanged to the pacific -- exchanged on their trip to the pacific and
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back, works from voltaire, the philosopher. he had a bust of hamilton, is our genesis, and the hall -- hamilton, his arch nemesis, and the hall -- in the hall opposite of us of himself. when visitor once told me that perhaps it was a political hunting trophy, because of course jefferson eventually won in the political battle against hamilton by becoming president. the dining room is one of the brighter spaces in monticello because of the chrome yellow paint on the walls. it would have been located on the north side of the house, the coldest and darkest side. that is where practice -- breakfast would be served each morning and dinner at about 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon. jefferson is famous for his political uses of food.
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when he was president, he would, multiple times a week, invite politicians to dine at his home, both democratic republicans, his party, but also his adversaries, federalists. they would come separate nights. jefferson used his conversations to talk about politics but also other things of the day, philosophy, religion. he preferred private, intimate affairs where conversation could come to life. in the monticello dining room, there are a number of contractions and conveniences that would limit the number of enslaved people required to be present for the dinners. so the food would come in through a side door with revolving shelves so that the enslaved waiters bringing the food from the kitchen underneath the house would not have to be entering the room and exiting the room nonstop. they could put the food on the
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door outside the room and the enslaved butler would simply turn the door and bring the food into this room. the wine cellar was located directly beneath the dining room. on each side of the fireplace, jefferson had built over the mantle line dumb -- mantle wine dumb waiters. so he is using these contraptions to limit the coming and going of enslaved servants, but, at the same time, there is work going on behind the scenes to make that dinner and the engaging conversation taking place possible. the south side of the house is really devoted to private family spaces and private spaces for jefferson, and he had his own private apartment on the south side of the house that consisted really of three separate rooms, his cabinet, what we would probably call his office or
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study, is library, and, of course, his bedchamber. of the three, his bedchamber would have been the most private, where jefferson would wake in the morning with the sun and begin each day with a cold foot bath and begin to read and respond to letters for a few hours before breakfast. it is also where he would return in the evening for a few hours of reading before bed as well. the other thing you could say about jefferson's bedchamber is it is the space where he passed away at the age of 83, which is one of the more remarkable stories. jefferson died on july 4, 18 26, which was the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the declaration of independence that he was the primary author of. jefferson's death was -- for many reasons.
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he struggled with debt. he had many millions of dollars in debt in today's money. the family were unable to keep monticello. they had to sell monticello, the land, things in the home, and most heartbreakingly of all, they had to sell about 130 enslaved african americans. one of the slaves on the plantation recalls that jefferson's death was a time of great uncertainty amongst the enslaved community, and you can imagine that enslaved people here would be worried, after the death of jefferson, that their families would be split apart. what ends up happening in most cases, in many cases. the property in the 1830's would be bought by a man named uriah levy, one of the first naval officers of jewish faith in the u.s.
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uriah levy and his family began the process of tracking down some of the original objects of the home and, in 1923, it was uriah levy's nephew who sold this property to the thomas jefferson foundation, which continues to own monticello as a nonprofit museum and has since 1923. one of the things that we are striving to bring back here to the guest experience at monticello is a sense that monticello is more than just this house on a hill. the house is incredibly well-preserved and we want people to walk in jefferson's footsteps, but we also want them to understand that monticello had nearly 200 people living here during jefferson's time and that most of them were enslaved, so, over the past several years, we have been working to restore the landscape of slavery to monticello. so when you walk outside the
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house, you look down on mulberry row, and you can understand that there was a center of industry and enslaved like there. if you tour the south wing and the area underneath the house, you will see that this was a home for the people jefferson enslaved here as well and that it was their work that made monticello what it was and, in many senses, may jefferson who he was. when people leave monticello, i hope people get a sense of the complexity of jefferson, but also how relevant his story is to the nation that we became. here is a man who wrote all men are created equal yet was a slaveholder. here is a man who truly believed that government should be representative of the people even though he was very much a virginia aristocrat. jefferson, at the end of the
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day, had a very optimistic view of our nation and a very optimistic view that we could governor selves. i hope people leaving understand that while monticello was jefferson's life's work, he also viewed the u.s. as something that would never be [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> congress returns for legislative as this on february 22. until then, committees will continue work on covid relief legislation based on president biden's 1.9 trillion dollar plan. they face a february 16 deadline to present their bills and the house plans to take up the bill by the end of the month. the next vote in the house is expected on monday, the 22nd. the senate is scheduled to take up the nomination of linda thomas-greenfield to be u.s.
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ambassador to the united nations, a procedural vote to advance her nomination with a confirmation vote expected the following day for tom vilsack to be agriculture secretary. until then, both chambers are holding brief pro forma sessions with no votes planned. watch the senate on c-span in the senate live on c-span2. >> the 117 congress includes more than 60 new members and the group includes first-generation immigrants, television reporters and former college and professional athletes. watch our conversations with new members of congress this week at 8 p.m. eastern, presidents' day, tonight. we feature freshman house democrats and senate republican members, including teresa leger fernandez, deborah ross, frank mrvan, carolyn bourdeaux, bill hagerty and roger marshall. watch interviews with new members of congress at 8 p.m. eastern on c-span, online at
2:02 pm, or listen on the c-span radio app. >> on thursday, the house financial services committee hearing on the recent volatility in the stock price of gamestop and decisions by some companies to restrict trading of the stock. witnesses include the ceo of robin hood, the ceo of citadel, melvin capital management ceo, gabrielle plotkin and financial analyst keith gill. watch live thursday, beginning at noon eastern on c-span, online at or listen on the c-span radio app. >> during a house judiciary subcommittee meeting, a number of legal experts talked about the president's clemency power and when it can be used under the constitution.


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