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Although Thomas Jefferson, author of the words "All men are created equal," was a lifelong enemy of the institution of slavery, he considered over six hundred human beings his legal possessions over the course of his long life. Building on Stanton's highly acclaimed Slavery at Monticello, this fascinating work highlights the stories of six enslaved families who lived and worked at Monticello and provides general information on events and issues that affected the entire African-American community.
Informed by the extensive records and accounts of Thomas Jefferson, the book also draws from oral histories of the descendants of former slaves as well as the reminiscences and letters left by men and women who lived in slavery at Monticello. Stanton unveils the lives of the African Americans who experienced bondage on Jefferson's plantations and examines the wide variety of ways in which individuals responded to their situation, whether as "trusty servants," resourceful leaders, or outright rebels. The book also chronicles the many accomplishments of Monticello slaves and their descendants, either during their enslavement, as the creators of hand-crafted furniture in Monticello's joinery and European-inspired cuisine served in the Monticello dining room; or after gaining freedom, as the founders of churches and schools and businesses. The skills practiced at Monticello were carried to all parts of the country, and the fight for education, freedom, and family integrity continued long after they left the mountaintop.