Thomas Jefferson provided for the freedom of only nine slaves. Six months after his death in 1826, over a hundred men, women, and children were sold at auction at Monticello. In the hundred years after the enslaved families were dispersed, their descendants moved north from Virginia and east and west from Ohio. Some still reside near the mountain where their ancestors lived and worked. Others crossed the Atlantic in search of freedom. Whether former Monticello residents chose their destinations or were compelled to move, conditions in their new locations had a profound effect on their lives.
Monticello’s newly freed people faced the difficult decision of choosing whether to leave or stay in Virginia. For Getting Word participants, returning to the home of their ancestors can be a profound and moving experience.
Members of the Hemings and Fossett families, who gained freedom early, left Virginia for better circumstances in Ohio.