February 2016: Understanding Thomas Jefferson’s Stance on Slavery
The complex relationship between Thomas Jefferson and slavery has been studied extensively and debated by his biographers and scholars.
The owner of more than 600 slaves throughout his life, Jefferson acquired them by inheritance, marriage, the birth of children to enslaved people, and trade from the time he turned 21. In 1764, he inherited 5,000 acres and 52 slaves after his father’s death. More followed in 1772 upon his marriage to widow Martha Wayles Skelton when her father, John, gave Jefferson two plantations and an additional 135 slaves.
By 1776, Jefferson was one of the largest planters in Virginia. The value of his property (land and slaves) was increasingly offset by his growing debts, which made it very difficult to free them; they were “assets.”
To learn more about Jefferson and his relationship to his slaves, we traveled to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello to interview historian Christa Dierksheide, an expert on Jefferson and slavery. Scroll down to read more. — Grateful American™ Foundation executive producer Hope Katz Gibbs and founder David Bruce Smith