The Life of Sally Hemings exhibit at Monticello

The Life of Sally Hemings exhibit at Monticello. Photo: Stacey Evans

An upcoming museum exhibit in Dallas will explore life on one of the nation’s most historic plantations—from the perspective of slaves who lived there.

Dallas’ African American Museum will debut the newly updated Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty in mid-September, the museum announced this week. The exhibition will feature more than 300 works of art, documents, and artifacts.

The exhibition will be open in Dallas from Sept. 22 to Dec. 31 before traveling to other locations across the country.

Tickets will be $10 for adults, $5 for children 3-12, and free for children 2 and under.

Admission will be free on Thursdays for seniors 65 and older.

Dr. Harry R. Robinson, Jr., the president and CEO of the African American Museum, said he’s looking forward to hosting such an important exhibit.

“It’ll provide an opportunity for a discussion of slavery and for people to get a glimpse of what it was like at Monticello from the slaves’ point of view,” Robinson said.

The exhibit draws from a Sally Hemings exhibit that opened this summer at Monticello, the museum at Jefferson’s historic plantation in Charlottesville, Virginia. Sally Hemings was an enslaved woman who is said to have given birth to at least six of Jefferson’s children.

“What’s new in Monticello is groundbreaking because it takes the life of Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman, … and it gives her dimension, and it gives her children dimension,” said Gayle Jessup White, Monticello’s community engagement officer and descendant of both Hemings and Jefferson.

Jessup White met Dallas City Council member Kevin Felder at an NAACP conference a couple of years ago, and they began talking about how the city would be an ideal venue for the updated exhibition. Although Dallas is far from Jefferson’s plantation, the stories of the two places are tied.

“The story of Monticello is the story of America,” Jessup White said. “The story of the enslaved people is the story of American people. Dallas has its own storied history and its own controversies over its history, and we hope that this addition can be part of that process of discovery.”

Organized by Monticello, the exhibition first opened at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 2012. After being on display at various museums around the nation, the exhibition was updated with more information about Hemings.

“What makes this different from other exhibitions is it focuses on the lives of slaves and several families, like the Hemings family,” Jessup White said. “And so it endeavours to see what life was like on Monticello through their eyes, rather than through the eyes of Jefferson and his family.”

From the July 2018 issue
The June 2024 cover of Texas Highways: Treasures from the Coast

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