If your class gets the chance to visit Monticello, you're in luck: Use the app on a mobile device to guide your walking tour and learn about the historic significance of different sites on the grounds. As it is, this app is a great way to begin your own dialogue about the legacy of slavery in the United States and the experiences of enslaved people. It's also a great starting point for further research and exploration, whether you further explore these individuals' lives or the themes in greater detail.Continue reading Show less
Slavery at Monticello: Life and Work on Mulberry Row is a reference tool that explores life on Mulberry Row, the lane that served as the main economic hub of the Monticello estate outside Charlottesville, Virginia. The app reflects some major work by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation to expand their coverage, tours, and narrative attention to the lives of the hundreds of slaves who lived in and around Jefferson's famous manse at Monticello. Over the past decade, the Mulberry Row exhibit at Monticello has expanded significantly, focusing on the lives of the many people who kept the estate running for the small family who occupied the home and their frequent guests. This app extends that work, giving users on-site at Monticello or anywhere in the world an up-close look at the lives of the men and women who lived and worked on Mulberry Row.
The app has three sections: Sites (where users can explore an interactive map of the area), People (where users can explore biographies of people who lived at Monticello and Mulberry Row), and Themes (where users can learn more about critical historical and social themes). Each entry in People includes a one-liner about that person's role (including "An Irish Master Craftsman" and "Jefferson's Lifelong Companion"), a brief biography and timeline, videos, infographics, and stories about the larger historical context of each person's life. Themes delves more deeply into major issues that faced the people who worked on Mulberry Row: "Family & Separation"; "Labor, Trade & Economy"; "Life After Monticello"; "Living & Working Conditions"; "Racial Identity"; "Resistance & Punishment"; and "Studying Slavery at Monticello."
This app includes a narrative choice that's on striking display at Monticello: The narrators use the term "enslaved people" rather than "slaves," and there's a focus on the nuances, details, and challenges of these individuals' lives that is rarely seen in historical accounts of African Americans from this period. This app addresses the brutality and complexity of slavery head-on: Instead of skirting the issue, the developers address the problematic, often-troubling legacy of Thomas Jefferson's slave ownership. It's a tough thing to do well, and the developers and historians do an admirable, sensitive job of surfacing these problematic issues and exploring them. For that alone, this free app is worth a look. There simply aren't many resources out there that give faces and names to the larger story of slavery in this country.
The main way to make this app better would be to add more content. The stories and images are good -- and narration from descendants of enslaved people who lived at Monticello is especially affecting. More links out to primary source documents and more opportunities to engage with the content would take this app to the next level. Users can share that they're using the app via social media or email, but it would be even better if they could share more about their experience and reflect on it more deeply. Some kind of forum or space for reflection and discussion would help this app begin a powerful dialogue more successfully and more sustainably.
Key Standards Supported
Reading History/Social Studies
Describe how a text presents information (e.g., sequentially, comparatively, causally).
Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author’s point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).
Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.
Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.
Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.
Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.
Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.
Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.
Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.
Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
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