Curators at Monticello, the Virginia estate which once belonged to the third president of the United States Thomas Jefferson but that has since been turned into a National Historic Landmark, have gone woke with public exhibits, and patriotic visitors have begun to complain about the overt politicization of one of America’s greatest historical treasures — and the overt attempt to dishonor one of America’s greatest philosophical and political minds.
According to the New York Post’s Mary Kay Linge and Jon Levine, “grievance has become the predominant theme at Monticello, from the ticket booth in the visitors center — decorated with a contemporary painting of Jefferson’s weeping slaves — to its final gift-shop display.”
In addition to the ticket booth and the gift shop, which features works by critical race theorists Ibram X. Kendi and Ta-Nehisi Coates but just one biography about Jefferson himself, the estate reportedly discusses the Native Americans who lived on the land before Jefferson purchased it. It also offers an in-depth look at Sally Hemings, Jefferson’s mistress who allegedly bore him six children, and makes repeated reference to the “enslaved” people who once lived and worked at Monticello but presents a nuanced version of Jefferson and focuses little on his accomplishments.
Jeffrey Tucker, the founder of the libertarian Brownstone Institute, recently took a group tour of Monticello and noted a “surly and dismissive” tone from his tour guide.
“Someone asked if Jefferson had built a machine in the house, and the guide said, ‘Nah, he never built anything, he was just a tinkerer,’” Tucker recalled.
Not only did Jefferson design Monticello and found the University of Virginia, but he was also the author of the Declaration of Independence. However, many historians at Monticello today seem to consider his association with the Declaration more problematic that impressive.
In a video posted to the Monticello Facebook page, tour guide Kyle Chattleton claims that “How is it that Jefferson wrote that ‘all men are created equal’ and yet also held people as slaves?” is one of the most common questions that visitors ask.
The content of other Monticello Facebook posts, and indeed the Monticello website itself, similarly reflect this modern-day fixation on Jefferson’s participation in slavery, rather than his contributions to the foundation of America.
Visitor Wesley Stevens commented on Google Maps that “they are trying to rewrite history to make it seem like the founding fathers were terrible immoral creatures that happened to start a country.”
Per Linge and Levine, many big-name Democrat donors have made considerable contributions to the Monticello preservation funds as well, which may account for the recent changes in approach and temperament at the estate.