Slave Quarters Discovered at Monticello

Archaeologists digging at Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello, Virginia, have discovered slave quarters used at the time he was living there.

The remains were found at Tufton, one of Jefferson’s farms a mile from the actual house. Jefferson owned several farms around Monticello that were worked by his many slaves. The artifacts dating to Jefferson’s time include everyday items such as a button and fragments of ceramic, as well as a slate pencil, which raises the question of whether one of the slaves was literate. A more sobering find was a padlock. The slaves appear to have lived in small, single-family homes.

Jefferson’s views on slavery were complex. He correctly predicted that it would divide the nation, but that didn’t stop him from owning slaves himself, and while Jefferson wrote against race mixing, DNA evidence indicates that Jefferson fathered several children with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings.

A second slave quarter site was also found, dating to the middle and end of the nineteenth century. Jefferson had died in 1826 and his family sold his 130 slaves to pay off his many debts. Monticello itself was sold in 1831. The family that bought the Tufton farm also worked it with slaves until the end of the Civil War.

Photo courtesy Stefan Volk.

WHS new “Tentative List”: Places to Love–Thomas Jefferson Buildings

For the Gadling series “World Heritage Site new “Tentative List”: Places to Love” we are covering the 14 sites that have been submitted for possible inclusion as an official World Heritage Site in the United States. The sites will not be posted in order of importance or in the order they appear on the list.

Number 4

Name of Site: Thomas Jefferson Buildings

Location: Poplar Forest and Richmond, Virginia

Reason for importance in a nutshell: Though he had no formal training in architecture, Thomas Jefferson had a genius for drawing and constructing buildings. His home estate Monticello and the University of Virginia by his design are already on the World Heritage list. Poplar Forest and the State Capitol building (pictured) would be additions to this.

Grant’s Take: I’m always baffled by Jefferson’s areas of expertise. In addition to being the third President of the United States, he was obviously an acclaimed architect as well as an archaeologist, university founder, scholar, wine lover, writer and philosopher. I’ll be lucky if I get to one of those in my life.

No better example of Thomas Jefferson’s architectural talent exists than in Virginia. The UVA campus is a beautiful example of his work and I see more of this excellence in his Poplar Forest estate and Richmond Capitol building. All three of these sites are definitely worth a visit if you’re in the Richmond or even Washington DC area.