Returning the Landscape of Slavery to Presidential Plantations

AHA Session 127
Friday, January 5, 2018: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Palladian Ballroom (Omni Shoreham, West Lobby)
Douglas Bradburn, George Washington’s Mount Vernon
Sara Bon-Harper, James Monroe’s Highland
Elizabeth Chew, James Madison’s Montpelier
Gary Sandling, Thomas Jefferson Foundation
Douglas Bradburn, George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Session Abstract

In this roundtable, leaders from George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, James Madison’s Montpelier, and James Monroe’s Highland will discuss the trajectories of the interpretation of slavery at their sites. The Mount Vernon Ladies Association was founded in 1857 and The Montpelier Foundation in 2000. Monticello first opened to the public in 1927, and Highland became a museum in 1975. With their varying ages and tenures in presenting presidential history to public audiences, these organizations have different histories of interpreting slavery. Questions this roundtable will consider include: How has each organization approached the topic and how have the approaches changed over time? How has academic historiography of slavery impacted public history? What happens to hero worship at founding-era sites that strive to tell a complete American story? How does the visiting public perceive and react to these changes?
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