Friday, July 20, 2007

What I Did On My Summer Vacation- Monticello

The Labor ForceImage by BrianWestChest via Flickr
I would normally post this only at my personal blog.  But,  I thought you might be interested.  This blog entry is a combination of my blog and personal journal. So, it'll be long and maybe not very well organized.  I want to capture some thoughts/emotions I'm feeling after a pretty enlightening weekend.  Where to begin? I just returned from the Monticello Community Gathering in Charlottesville, VA at Monticello- the home of my great, great, great, great grandfather (hereafter referred to as great4 grandfather) - Thomas Jefferson.  This was a gathering of the descendants of the Jefferson family, slaves, artisans, anyone connected to Monticello.  The entry includes links to pictures of our trip.  There are are about 240 pictures in all.  The links only go to a few.  To view the full collection go here:  Monticello Community Gathering Picture Collection.  The weekend was something I was not looking forward to for several reasons. 
  • Glorifying plantation life is similar to glorifying concentration camps.  My ancestors were stolen from their homelands, forced into labor, killed and raped to support the plantation system.  I
    really had no interest in listening to people talk about the "good old days" of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.
  • I hate being away from home.  Nights in hotels- yuck. I'm practically agoraphobic (not many people know that).  I only leave home when I have to.
  • It was a 9 hour drive and I'm not much for long drives.
  • It cost money and I'm cheap.
  • I'm just not into genealogy or history for that matter. 
  • I'm not much for family reunions.  I'd rather have a party with people I know than meet more and more "cousins" I'll never speak to again.
I went for the girls and for Mom & Dad.  Since finding out that our family includes Thomas Jefferson about a decade or so ago, I've been mildly (at best) interested.  My first reaction was "Did he leave us any money?"  Being a descendant of Thomas Jefferson didn't have any impact on my daily life.   So, I really wasn't interested.  That changed this weekend as the faceless names on the pieces of paper that people were telling me was my family tree took on flesh and blood and became real to me.  This entry is not going to be a rant about how bad the experience was.  It was surprisingly pleasant and informative.

Ty and I took the girls down a day early so that I could relax from the drive before the festivities began.  We set out for Charlottesville on Thursday.  We didn't get out as early as we would have liked because we had some backorders to get out and had to wait for product to arrive in the mail on Thursday. Finally, around 1 pm we got on the road, putting our ETA into Charlottesville after dark. We had an uneventful trip, in spite of some anxiety caused by Google maps' lack of detailed information and the mile markers on I-64 in Virginia changing twice causing us to not know if we had an hour left on our trip or nearly 4 hours, at one point. Note to the state of Virginia: A couple of signs along I-64 with the mileage to Charlottesville would be very nice.  Kayla, overhearing all of our conversation , began to worry (as Kayla does).  Shayna wanted to know why we kept trying to figure things out and didn't just take the word of the Google map or the girl at the hotel's word for it.  We pulled into the Sleep Inn around 10 o'clock, checked in and had a good nights' sleep.  We shared a room and were a little concerned how much sleep we'd get with the girls there. But, both of them were out like a light when we finally crawled into bed around 1 am.

Friday, we had some spare time so we went to the Omni and checked in early.  We then spent some time walking up and down the mall which is a group of shops, restaurants and street vendors that stretches in front of the Omni.  It is a very nice eclectic mix, very inexpensive and the people in Charlottesville were wonderfully friendly.  Any meal that we didn't eat with the "gathering" we ate on the mall.  Five Guys Hamburgers was great.  There was a little noodle shop where we had some very unusual cold noodles (mine came with a spicy sauce and slices of apples).  Shayna ate at Christian's  Pizzeria which had everything from broccoli to ravioli to avocado toppings.  Of course, she had cheese  pizza.  The rest of the family rolled in Friday (except Brent who had a couple of days from hell- having to drive to Cleveland to visit Sherri's dying father and comfort her mother before heading down to Charlottesville and hitting a deer about 11 o'clock that evening).
Friday evening we had a reception at the University of Virginia on the Pavilion behind the Rotunda.  The significance of the location for the reception escaped me until I got there.  I had forgotten that Thomas Jefferson (great4grandfather) was the founder of the university.  The design of the rotunda and the living quarters of the students and teachers is amazing itself.  The rotunda is the anchor point at the end with two wings down either side under covered walkway (you see this same architecture at Monticello).  The teachers lived above the classrooms and the students in rooms between.  That way, the students and teachers were living in close proximity to each other, creating a real sense of community.  The reception was in one of the gardens, which was beautiful.  We remembered to bring bug spray to Charlottesville for Kayla (high sensitive to mosquito bites).  But, we dressed for an indoor reception worried more about air conditioning (and the girls getting cold) than bugs.  Once I got two mosquito bites, we hustled Kayla out of there.  Miraculously, she had none. She's always the first to be bitten.  We had wonderful appetizers (my first experience with parsnips which were marinated, roasted and delicious). Also of note was some very nice brie (which I normally don't like) and my first taste of goat cheese (pretty good). But, I hate to say it, Charlottesville, you're not much on the wine-making. 

At the reception, the Carr family welcomed us.  I might get this wrong because I haven't followed this whole thing.  But, I think that was pretty significant because I think the Carr family was kind of a roadblock to the black side of the family (the Hemings) being accepted as descendants of Thomas Jefferson.  Dabney Carr was Thomas Jefferson's boyhood friend and married Jefferson's sister. After the deaths of Dabney and Jefferson's sister Martha, Jefferson took the Carr children and raised them as his own.  Frankly, a week ago I wouldn't have given a hoot about this one way or the other.  But, meeting a guy named Dabney Carr and seeing all the descendants of that story brought it to life for me.  The Carrs were very welcoming and played a major role in the gathering.  Actually,  they used the word gathering rather than reunion because this event was about more than just family, it was about the entire Monticello community. Monticello required more than just slaves to run, there were overseers, artisans, skilled laborers, etc.  that Jefferson brought in as part of Monticello.  And all the descendants of those people were welcome.

As I was snapping photos at the reception, I was overcome with a sense of belonging that I rarely feel.  I'm not into genealogy, I think for several reasons.  Ostensibly, it's been because genealogy divides rather than unites.  Genealogy, to me, says "I'm part of this clan and you're not.".  I've always been more of a brotherhood of man kind of guy.  I look at people as just human rather than part of one family or another or one race or another.  I go back to the fact that we're all family through Adam (or spiritually through Jesus- if you want to go there).  I don't give a damn who your father or great grandfather was, you're still my brother.  But, subconsciously, I think another reason I'm not into that stuff has been jealousy. Maybe my reaction was a sour grapes kind of thing.  While my friends could say "I'm Scottish", "I'm French", "My mother's family is from Germany and my father's from England", "My ancestors came over on the Mayflower", etc.;  I could only say "I'm Black.  My ancestors came over in the holds of ships, many of them dying along the way. I don't know what country they're from, what language they spoke or anything about their culture.".  Slavery, over 400 years later still has an impact on the psyche of African Americans.  We have been denied the sense of history, of roots, of belonging that is so common among white people.  While they can go visit the castles of Europe and imagine what it was like for their ancestors to hold court there, we get to go to the Freedom Center or a plantation and imagine our ancestors being raped, beaten and just eking out an existence.   Look back at history?  You ask.  No thanks.  Let's just move forward, please- quickly.

But, something was different at the reception, as I looked around, I loved the fact that all these diverse people were acknowledging a common heritage.  Since it was an expanded reunion, we were not all related by blood. But, in fact, many of us were related by blood.  You could see the transition in our family from white to black and sometimes back again.  My family reunions normally have a pretty wide range of shades at them anyway.  But, this was pretty wild.  At the reunion, it was apparent, that most "African Americans" are not that at all, we're mulattoes, mixed race people.  But, we're forced to wear the simplistic label of "Black". The thing that is wrong with that it denies a big part of who most of us "African"-Americans are.  Not only were our ancestors stolen from their lands and our genealogies lost to us that way, when our European ancestors mixed races with them, they denied the resulting children half (or more) of their heritage.  Sally Hemings, my great4 grandmother, was three-quarters white.  Thomas Jefferson's wife was her half-sister.   Sally Hemings was described by one of her contemporaries as "mighty near white".  My great3 grandfather, Thomas Woodson was 7/8 white.  Yet, for both, being mostly white wasn't enough.  They were Black enough to be slaves. When Thomas Woodson moved to Ohio, many of his descendants "passed" and blended into the White community, leaving his later descendants in the dark about their true blood-lines until recently.  At the reception, when I saw a group of people who not only accepted, but embraced this heritage, I felt a true sense of belonging.  In this group, I was finally neither White nor Black, just a darker skinned cousin.  We were all there to celebrate our common heritage and the racial divide was set aside.  It simply was not an issue for these three days. That was a glimpse of the way things should be every day!  For so long, I've wrestled with whether to simply allow people to classify me as "African American" or not.  For the sake of simplicity, I usually do.  But, I know my heritage is much richer (and checkered) than just that.  Even when I go to just my "normal" family reunions, I can look around and see the results of the melting pot.  My cousins and aunts and uncles are all shades from near white to deep chocolate. But, we have to have things in neat little categories.  People want to pin me down as an African-American male Christian.  Who has the time to find out that I'm not only a son of slaves, but a son of kings (so to speak)? Not only Christian, but heavily influenced by Buddhism and other traditions?  Not simply a Democrat or a Liberal, but someone who decides things one issue at a time- conservative on some issues, even liberatarian on some? 

People used to accuse me of being "afraid to be Black".  I'm not afraid to be Black.   I'm happy to be who I am.  But, I am not what people assume me to be when they hear I am Black.  And, I will not pretend to be what I am not to live up to (rather down to)  someone else's expectations. I was not raised in the 'hood (ghetto).  I do not speak Ebonics.  And, all my ancestors were not slaves or Africans.  I don't fit into the neat little boxes people want to put me in.  It's cramped and dark in there. I want out.

Saturday morning, we had the keynote address and introductions. The Monticello families were listed on a PowerPoint slide and each family had a representative give a brief accounting of how they were related to Monticello.  My favorite though was the matriarch of my branch (whom I hadn't met until Friday).  Mary Casells Kearney is 85 years old and told a powerful story of wanting to belong and of her heritage being denied her.  She was a child when her father sat her and her siblings down with a little brown leather journal.  But, from the way she told the story, you could tell in her mind it was like it happened yesterday.  Some powerful emotions must have be brought forth for that day to have made such an impression on her.  From this book, her father recited her heritage to her- how she was descended not only from slaves but from one of the most influential men in American history (and in world history), Thomas Jefferson.  Mary is a light skinned woman, as you can see in the picture.  But, as a child, when she looked at the pictures in the book, she said with surprise "Those look like white people in that book."  She had been told her whole life she was Black (I'm guessing the word was "colored").  She had no idea about how she got the light skin. It was a story of a proud heritage. Yet, at the end of his recitation, the other shoe fell.  He told them to learn their heritage, but not to speak it to
anyone.  A lump came up in my throat and tears came to my eyes as Mary said she didn't care what historians or scientists said, she knew she was a member of the family.  It was obvious Mary did care.
She carried that book with pride and she loved the fact that finally, finally, the rest of the family was acknowledging her as a member.  Mary received a standing ovation.

Prinny Anderson
, who did a lot of the coordination of the event, did an excellent job of kicking things off and sharing her reflections on what was happening.  Prinny has been very active in the effort to bring both sides of the slave legacy together, participating in the Coming to the Table project. When she spoke, it was obvious that this discovery of the "other side" of her family had had an impact on her.  When she introduced her "cousin Connye Moore-Richardson", old habits made me (and others) expect a white woman to stand up. But, Connye is a beautiful black lady from Los Angeles, CA. It was another reminder of how deeply race and its divisions has been put into us. 

The Mayor of Charlottesville, David Brown, addressed us and welcomed us to Charlottesville.  Obviously, Monticello and the University of Virginia are major parts of Charlottesville, both given to the city by our great4 grandfather.  The mayor gave us a warm welcome.  I have to admit, I swelled with pride (just a little).  How many family reunions have a mayor address them and talk about the contribution of their family (actually the Monticello community) to their city?

The keynote speaker was Associate Professor of History at University of Alabama, Dr. Josh Rothman.
His speech was long (too long for some- especially the children).  But, I thought it was fascinating.  He could not have delivered the information he had to deliver in any less time.   I appreciated his thoroughness and was glad he took his time.  I was expecting a dry recitation about life on the plantation (which was wonderful if you were White but sucked if you were Black).  But, that's not what he delivered.  He talked about the complexities of the White-Black relationship, the codependencies and the fact that it truly was an integrated society (even if both sides were uncomfortable with it).  He acknowledged (much to my happiness) the fact that Monticello could not have existed without the forced labor of many men, women and children.  He did not whitewash (pun intended) the often swept-under-the-rug part of that life.  He talked about the complex relationship between slave owner and master.  The masters often talked about benevolence to slaves. Yet, most did not hesitate to use the whip or to break up families or rape women.  They wrote lofty words about how all men are created equal, yet they traded men like cattle and treated them worse than they would their dogs. They said Blacks were sub-human, yet reproduced with them. They said Blacks were unskilled and untrainable. Yet, while Monticello started off as a very cosmopolitan place with craftsmen from all over the world imported to make the things Jefferson sought,;those craftsmen transferred their skills to these "subhuman, untrainable" Blacks who provided free, skilled labor to produce Jefferson's fineries.
Masters would often give slaves the opportunity to earn money to buy things for themselves (sometimes selling these goods back to the masters- Jefferson did this).  Occasionally, a slave could
even purchase his own freedom.  But, were these things done out of paternalistic concern, humanitarianism or because it was good property management? Who knows? 

One major point the professor made, that I hadn't really thought about before,  was that the plantation life was an integrated community, not segregated.  And, it was a community.  Blacks and whites worked shoulder to shoulder and were intimately (in all meanings of the word) involved with each other.  It was after slavery that we tried segregation in this country.  But, slavery forced us together.

Thomas Jefferson wanted to be completely self-sufficient.  It's ironic that he could only do this on the backs of almost 200 slaves.  The plaque at Monticello references only about 110.  But, from what I've read elsewhere, the actual number is closer to 200.  If Jefferson could make a thing at Monticello, he did. He had wool spun, fabric produced, buttons made, a nailery (where they made nails), they produced their own charcoal, they did their own carpentry, at least one carriage was made there), he grew his own grapes for wine (from grapes imported from Italy). And that's just the tip of the iceberg.  However, when I look at plantation life, it's not with a sense of longing for the "good old days" or even an admiration for what they "accomplished".  I see an economic engine that benefited a chosen few.  An engine whose fuel was the blood, sweat and tears of men, women and children.  Monticello, while fascinating in many ways, was still built on slave labor.  Even while I was admiring Monticello during the tour, I never wanted to forget that and I never will. It's not so hard to achieve financial success when you have a virtually unlimited pool of free labor.

After the professor's speech, Lucia Cinder Stanton, Senior Research Historian at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation (and probably the world's foremost authority on slave life at Monticello) spoke to us.  She told us about a "day in the life" of Monticello.  I assumed this would be a generic, this is what would happen on a typical day.  But, great4 grandfather was a man who I'm guessing would be diagnosed with OCD today.  He kept a journal on every detail of his (business) life. So, when you do a day in the life of Jefferson, you can pick a day like July 14, 1814 and do that day.  He began his day by noting the weather making notes like "CAR" (clear after rain) and giving the exact rainfall, down to two decimal places).  He gave us the decimal monetary system and tried to take the nation to decimal measures all around.  He spent this particular day riding around the property (up to 5,000 acres back then) noting how things were going. Earlier I said he wanted Monticello to be completely self-sufficient.  So, there was a lot to check on.  He would note how much fabric was produced in the mills (by each worker), how many hours each worker worked, how many nails were produced, when the tomatoes would be ripe (three days from now), etc. There are journals covering decades of exactly everything he bought. Yet, such a detail oriented man died in debt (way in debt!).  He was obsessed with living the good life and apparently, he was going to have what he wanted, no matter the cost.  He said he detested slavery. Yet, he only freed two slaves during his lifetime, allowed two to "run away" and freed five after his death.  We did hear stories of others who freed more slaves (in life and in death- it's easy to give them up when you don't need them anymore).  But, I always wonder how a man who could write the words of the Declaration of Independence and father so many children by a "Black" (remember Sally Hemings was 3/4 white) woman could sleep at night knowing his crown-jewel, Monticello, was built and run by enslaving men, women and children. Most of us think of slaves as dark skinned, nappy headed Africans.  That would at least distance them from the masters in appearance. But, many slaves looked no different than their masters.  Children with the same father and different mothers grew up on the same land but in completely different worlds.  There's a report of at least one person remarking how much one of Sally Hemings children (a slave) looked like Thomas Jefferson himself. Thomas Jefferson, while a great thinker, public servant and full of ideals was complex and flawed, as we all are.  He could only live the lifestyle he chose to live by making the decision to keep slaves.  Given the compromises I make every day to provide for myself and my family, I cannot honestly say that I know, to a certainty, I wouldn't do the same thing. But, I don't think I would.  ...I hope I wouldn't.

After the speeches, it was time to head up to Monticello.  I say "up" because Monticello, which means "little mountain" is scenically located just outside Charlottesville up on a "little mountain". From the right vantage point, Jefferson could look down and see his handiwork, the University of Virginia.  We missed the scheduled children's tour because they neglected to tell us that you can only drive up to about half a mile away from the house, then you have to take a bus up.  But, I think that turned out OK. We were told the next (available) tour of the house didn't start until 5:10 (and it was about 3 o'clock).  I was amazed at the number of people touring Monticello. So, we decided instead to walk the
grounds and see the house later (at the reception where we got exclusive access to rooms not available to the public).  I was kind of dreading this. As I said, I see plantations as just several notches above concentration camps.  The difference being plantations were set up on a system dependent on the exploitation of an enslaved people and concentration camps were set up for a people's destruction. Plantations could not have existed without forced labor.  The South could not have produced its cotton and rice (rice shown to them by Africans) without the labor the stole from Africa.   As I strolled the gardens that Jefferson strolled, viewed the beautiful views he looked over and walked into the bedroom where he and Sally Hemings may have conceived children that he denied, I felt conflicted.  Ty made the comment that my ancestors had worked these fields and lived in these 12'x20' slave houses.  But, I had to remind her (and myself) that my ancestor also owned these fields, owned my grand4 grandmother and penned the Declaration of Independence. After walking through the gardens, we strolled down to the Jefferson cemetery.  That's something I normally would have taken a pass on.
But, hearing the stories orally, from real flesh and blood people brought these names to life for me.  Not only was my grand4 grandfather buried there.  But, the relatives of many of the people I had been meeting over the last few days.  We joked about being buried there in the family plot, knowing that ain't gonna happen.  I later found out that a certain part of the family blocked having the sunrise service in the graveyard the following morning.   And there is still an issue with anyone descended from slaves being buried here. But, we didn't know either of those things at the time.   As we returned to Monticello for the evening's festivities, we noticed the slave burial ground, almost half of a mile from the main house- way down the hill.  Despite the detailed records of commerce at Monticello, there was no record of the slave burial ground.  It was only discovered in 2001.  Slaves were buried with maybe a rock to mark the grave. No inscriptions. 

After the graveyard, we strolled up along Mulberry Row where much of the work was done, back in the day.  There were people making cabinets, making barrels, making nails, making baskets from oak (I had no idea how they split the wood to make those things) and demonstrating how the slaves cooked.   As I watched the skill involved in those things, I continually thought "How could they say Blacks cannot be self-sufficient when many Blacks were practicing crafts way above the level of the average White person of the time?"  It's amazing to me what people can rationalize.  Blacks could obviously speak, think, show emotion and reproduce with Whites.  Yet, somehow, White people managed to dehumanize them.  I've heard that Blacks were often compared to animals or to children (of limited capacity).  But, when it came to using them for skilled labor or for having sex with them, White people gave them responsibilities they would never give to children and did things with them they would not have done with animals.

Speaking of cooking, did you like the looks of the spread in that picture?  Well, here's what each slave was given to live on for the week. That's a peck of corn and a little "fat back".  I know they didn't know a lot about nutrition 200 plus years ago.  But, they knew this wasn't enough to keep a person healthy.  Slaves supplemented their rations by farming, hunting and fishing. But, since they worked, for the master, sun up to sun down 6 days a week, there wasn't a lot of time for this.  Masters would though buy back excess food from the slaves, giving them their own spending money.  Jefferson allowed the barrel makers to keep every 31st barrel of the barrels they produced.  This could be sold for some income.  The lady doing the cooking (she had just made an awesome looking chicken stew in a dutch oven) told us about how dependent the plantation was on the slaves and we talked about it for a while.  From our name tags, she knew we were with the Monticello Gathering.  But, I don't think her
presentation was tailored to us.   I was happy to hear that visitors to Monticello were being given both sides of the story. She told us she was honored to have us there.  That was a strange feeling.  Honored seemed like a strong word. But, it was another nice welcome home.

After freshening up for a bit back at the hotel, it was time for the reception on the lawn at Monticello.
And, we could finally go in "the big house".  The reception was great.  The food was even better than the day before.  I was happy the kids got to experience the "fancy" reception. The tour of the house was just fascinating.  The first thing I noticed was the clock above the doorway (both inside and out) and the weather vane indicator on the porch.  In the entryway, there is the first sign that Thomas Jefferson was not perfect. The clock is operated by a weight that moves from day to day.  You see Sunday through Friday. But, then there's a hole in the floor and no Saturday.  Saturday is in the basement.  The clock mechanism is actually too high for the room.  Oops!  We were allowed to go up to the third floor into the "dome room" and a couple of pretty plain bedrooms.  These rooms are normally not accessible to the public. I was disappointed by a couple of things though.  The dome was built below the roof-line on the front of the house.  I really thought of Jefferson as sitting up there and looking out over Charlottesville. Not!  The windows on that side of the dome don't allow that view.  You might notice in this picture, the bottom half of the round windows is mirrored because it's below
roof level.  Also, there are no high porches or decks he could have sat out on.  Major surprise to me.  There's a door at the opposite end of entrance to the dome room that looks like it would open onto a deck.  But, it opens to a storage area.  "Proper architecture" dictated the door be put there to balance the doorway on the other side of the room.  But, there was no where for the door to lead to.

Inside, I guess I was most fascinated with Jefferson's library and his bedroom (which were connected).  His office was literally right next to his bed.  He had a thermometer in the bedroom right next to his bed (which struck me as odd since there was no central air or heat).  The clock is right at the foot his bed.  It is said he arose when he could see the clock. That's early that close to the East coast.  I know because the sun woke me up pretty early Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There is a chamber ("closet" above his bed, someone said that's where Sally Hemings spent many nights. A closet with ventilation holes? 

The kitchen arrangements also were worth noting.  The kitchen, cooks'quarters, smokehouse, dairy, etc. were down a kind of outdoor hallway on the left side of the house.  The other side of the house had a similar hallway with stables, etc.  But, the dining room was on the complete opposite side of the house. The cooks (or runners) had to take the food from the kitchen, down this passageway, through the basement, up the first floor.  Then, it was put on a lazy susan (to the right side of the dining room) and spun around to the house slaves who actually served the White people.  That way, the White people didn't have to see or smell the sweaty slaves who had to make these trips.

After the tour of the house, we stood outside for family pictures. We took one with the whole clan. As we were arranging ourselves, someone (I'm guessing of us "darker" cousins) broke into a spontaneous chorus of "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge.  But, they changed "I got all my sisters with me." to "I got all my cousins with me.".  It was one of the goosebumps moments.  I don't have that picture yet. 

A few more observations on my family.  I was thrilled with the way everybody came together.  There wasn't a whitewashing of the past or a denial of the past nor was there anger or bitterness over the past.  We talked about the past, accepted all of it, shook our heads and said our "sorrys" about parts of it, embraced parts of it and were willing and ready to move on.  We acknowledged that there were good things and bad things about it, just as there were good and bad things about great4 grandfather. He was a complicated man, just as we all are.  He had many good and brilliant traits. He was an amazing architect, botanist, entrepreneur, political leader, philosopher, etc., etc. Yet, he was not without his flaws.  He didn't know when to quit acquiring.  He didn't nearly live up to the ideals he set down on paper concerning freedom.  He denied and enslaved his own children.

As I said, I'm not much on history, genealogy, all that stuff.  But, the trip was good.  I'm proud of my ancestors.  My White friends often wonder aloud why the Black community is so dysfunctional.  Their perception is slavery was a blip and the civil rights movement of the 60s fixed everything.  Most of us (including myself sometimes) underestimate the effects of the diaspora on Black people.  It was more than a scattering, as the term diaspora implies.  They were ripped from their homeland, lost their names, their culture and had another culture thrust upon them.  Children were born with their fathers denying them.  We still see this happening generations later.  So many Black children growing up without fathers. The effects are still being felt.  The ripples have not smoothed out yet.  OTOH, it was fascinating recognizing the other part of my heritage also.  Thomas Jefferson, one of the most influential men of all time is a part of my family. The slaves that left Monticello led fascinating lives themselves, becoming leaders in their own communities, probably due to his influence.  As I look at my own family who has escaped much of the misery and poverty other Blacks still suffer, I wonder how much of that goes back to the fact we were fortunate enough to have come through Monticello rather than some other plantation.

As we drove back yesterday
, I asked the girls what they thought about the trip.  They loved it.  But, they loved seeing Brent's kids (Alyssa and Brianna).  Kayla seemed to appreciate Monticello. Shayna... not so much.  That's to be expected for Shayna. But, I told her I hoped she would remember the trip because we learned some very important things and I don't think we'll be making it again as a family.  She said "I'm never going to make that trip again in my long, long life?"  I told her she probably would come back there some day with her family and show them what she saw and appreciate it more then.  The trip back was good.  The girls were great.

We arrived home safely. I love my little retreat here.  From now on, I'll think of it as my own little Monticello.  No slaves.  But, we are pretty self-sufficient running our own business and making many of our own products.  We are pretty active in the community, too.  So, maybe a little of great, great, great, great grandfather is still in there.  To be like great4 grandfather and give some detail, it took 8-1/2 hours back (about 450 miles) and about 9 hours to get there.  The weather was good.  Sunny most of the way, rain coming through the South Eastern part of Ohio.  A little CAR (clouds after rain).  We made a few stops.  But, only one stop for breakfast at McDonald's on the way back (no lunch).  It was nice to pull back into our own little Monticello, up on the hill, sit on the deck and enjoy our view.

All in all, I'm glad I went, very glad I went.  A good time was had by all.

P.S.- Since coming back I've already been in touch with Prinny and Connye again.  Maybe we can get a little Internet community going.

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