Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 535

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 535


This is the slave graveyard at Montpelier, James Madison’s mansion.

Ever since I visited Montpelier in June, I’ve been praising the amazing way that museum has redone its interpretation of Madison’s life to emphasize slavery. That has been an increasing theme throughout the South and it’s fascinating because it is very much not the story that people who visit these places want to hear. Now, white people are whining about these tours. Part of how this is done at Montpelier is through commemorating the slave graveyard, where all the graves are unmarked. It’s a powerful place, on that should force the visitor to again confront that the man who wrote the Constitution did so on the backs of enslaved African labor and that he took those contradictions even less seriously than Jefferson. Here is the website for Montpelier’s “The Mere Distinction of Colour” exhibit, which is just absolutely fantastic. The Madison family, both James and Dolley, were unrepentant racists who lived a life of luxury and when things began to go south around the time James left the White House, sold people and separated families, even those who done the most intimate labor on white bodies, without blinking an eye about the suffering that caused.

Since it is very difficult to get at any details about the people buried here, let this serve as an open thread on slavery, the memory of slavery, and the hypocrisy behind the founding of the nation that we refuse to deal with seriously even today, as was so profoundly demonstrated by the right-wing reaction to the 1619 Project.

Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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