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Radical Restoration in Theory and Practice: James Madison’s Montpelier

"Monticello gets all the love, but it's Montpelier that's doing the cutting-edge work in the curation of slavery at historic sites"

January 15, 2024
Seminar Room, 27 University Square
16:00 - 18:00

This talk looks at the controversial restoration Montpelier, home of the fourth President of the USA, in the 2000s when the house was restored to its 1836 condition, requiring the demolition of half of the mansion as it stood at the end of the 20th century.

It explores the unique relationship between Montpelier and its descendant community, examining how Montpelier integrates slavery into its grounds and house tours--and how that compares to Monticello and Mt. Vernon. In particular, it focuses on the site's bold permanent exhibition on slavery which ties the legacies of slavery to current crises in mass incarceration and police brutality.

Lisa Goff is Associate Professor of English and American Studies at the University of Virginia, where she teaches classes in cultural landscapes and directs the Institute for Public History. Her first book, Shantytown, USA: Forgotten Landscapes of the Working Poor (Harvard UP) was a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2016. She is currently writing a book about the material culture of Montpelier, the central Virginia plantation built and maintained by the 100 enslaved laborers owned by Pres. James Madison and his wife Dolley Madison, which is under contract at University of Virginia Press. She has also developed two digital history projects at UVA: “Take Back the Archive,” dedicated to the history of sexual violence at the university; and “Finding Virginia’s Freetowns,” which seeks to digitally map and narrate the histories of dozens of Reconstruction-era Black settlements in central Virginia.

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