Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and founded the University of Virginia. Yet, over the course of his life, Jefferson owned 600 people. His way of life always depended on the labor of people he held in slavery.
How could the author of the Declaration of the Independence own slaves? How could twenty percent of the population of the new United States, founded on the principles of liberty and equality, live in bondage? What was life like for enslaved people in the early republic? This online exhibition uses Monticello as a lens through which to examine these questions.