Jefferson the Slaveholder

Thomas JeffersonMy goodness, the media has discovered that Thomas Jefferson, hero of every U. Va. alum, actually owned slaves. Not only that, but he exploited them for their labor! He arranged his life to make things nice for him even if it made things hard for them.


A slaveowner is a private dictator and, as we know, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Slaveholding even tainted Jefferson’s architectural efforts.

I attended U. Va. for two years, the last of which was spent in their Architecture School. While I never became that type of architect, I certainly learned how to look at a space and understand a bit of how the design affects its function.

I really enjoyed my first trip to Monticello, at first. We visited the pretty rooms and looked at TJ’s personal inventions and toys. We admired the dumbwaiter that brought fresh food up to the dining room from somewhere below.

Then we explored the lower passageway leading from the dumbwaiter back to the kitchen. It was TOO FAR, especially since the slaves had to move hot (or cold) food from the kitchen to the dumbwaiter.

TJ didn’t bother to optimize such things to improve his food quality. He relied on his slaves to fix the shortcoming in his design. Monticello was designed to require slaves. It couldn’t run effectively without vast quantities of free labor.

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