Jefferson's slave records now available online
Monticello has recently created an electronic resource called the Monticello Plantation Database, which contains a searchable catalog of Thomas Jefferson's slave records. The database is available on the Monticello Web site.
The project, which began in 1996, was organized by Lucia "Cinder" Stanton, Shannon Senior Historian at Monticello. Stanton said she and a team of University graduate students compiled the information from Thomas Jefferson's "Farm Book" --personal records containing his farming, personal finances and slave accounts--as well as Jefferson's letters and other written accounts.
According to Stanton, the database includes records of over 600 slaves. It also answers questions about slavery at Monticello, such as how slaves were acquired, and offers several text biographies of individual slaves, Stanton said.
The database is different from other current online resources, she said, because "it's grouped by individuals ... there's nothing quite like it available."
Stanton said she created the database in order to "bring into focus the whole nature of slavery at Monticello."
She hopes it will "both create curiosity about topic generally, and also show that the people who were in slavery were not just nameless victims, that they had lives as fathers and mothers."
"The human dimension is missing from so much about slavery, but it is recoverable, and I think this Web site will help with that," Stanton said.
Scot French, associate director at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies, said the Web site will allow researchers to see the full scope of Jefferson's original Monticello holdings.
According to French, Jefferson's original property was "much bigger than what you see today. The Monticello historic site is just a portion of one of Jefferson's Albemarle County farms."
French added that the Web site is part of a recent trend of making research materials more accessible for public use. He noted that online resources like the Library of Congress Web site and the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery are making information more readily available.
"If you put together these resources, I think you see that more and more material is being made available to the public," French said.
French commended Monticello for its increase in online materials and research on the history of slavery.
"I'm very excited that Monticello has added to their growing collection of digitized materials, particularly on the subject of slavery, which for many years had not been addressed by curators of Monticello," he said. "Since the 1980s Monticello has been working to address this very painful subject head-on."
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