Grave Matters at Monticello

American Family Reunions

Corbis / Bettmann

Even if Hemings kin weren't Jefferson's blood relatives, the Monticello Association courts shame by keeping them out of the graveyard. Hemings and the other Africans held as slaves built Monticello. They made the bricks, planed the lumber, suckled and fed the children. And the white descendants of Jefferson continue to enjoy the wealth and privilege this free labor amassed. Ancestral labor, as much as common blood, demands that kin of former slaves share Monticello. The Monticello Association must know they owe the black descendants a lot more than a place in the family plot.

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