James Madison's Montpelier We The People Fall 2013 - Page 12

We The People FINDING PEOPLE IN THE PIECES OF HISTORY 12 While much of what visitors see today is a twentieth century landscape, for nearly 200 years Montpelier was a working plantation cultivated by hundreds of enslaved people. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends, and foes, Montpelier was their home. Over the last decade, The Montpelier Foundation has remained committed to interpreting the lives of the Madison slaves and the site as a working plantation. The archaeological record is the most prolific source of information about the plantation landscape and its operations. Landscape restoration is a crucial step in our goal to interpret the history of Montpelier in an accurate and meaningful way. Towards this end, the archaeology team recently completed an eleven-month excavation, which revealed the initial footprint of the living quarters of the Madisons’ field slaves. Just inches below the surface, we found building foundations, as well as glass, ceramics, nails, and bone, which tell us how slaves lived, what they ate, wore, and did daily. The findings from this excavation serve as an important point of departure for comparison with other slave quarter sites across the property and are the capstone to a four-year collaborative research grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The research compiled from this particular project will help us reconstruct the homes of the various groups within the enslaved community and underscores Montpelier as a valuable research hub on early nineteenth century slave life in the Virginia Piedmont, as well as the larger Atlantic history of the African Diaspora. H E L P U S M E E T T H E P E R RY F O U N D AT I O N C H A L L E N G E The Perry Foundation has made a generous challenge grant to help Montpelier’s Archaeology Department maintain momentum on its continued investigations of the mansion grounds and slave quarters. Montpelier is striving to raise $200,000 to complete the match. To date, we have received gifts totaling $120,000 leaving us a funding gap of $80,000. Please consider a gift to help us reach our goal before the funding deadline of December 31, 2013. For more information, contact Matthew Reeves, Ph.D., Director of Archaeology and Landscape Restoration, at mreeves@montpelier.org or (540) 308-2061.