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Afrocity on the road: With what majesty do we there ride above the storms! June 18, 2009

Afrocity on the steps of Monticello in Charlottesville, VA

Afrocity on the steps of Monticello in Charlottesville, VA

“And our own dear Monticello, where has nature spread so rich a mantel under the eye? mountains, forests, rocks, rivers. With what majesty do we there ride above the storms! How sublime to look down into the workhouse of nature, to see her clouds, hail, snow, rain, thunder, all fabricated at our feet! And the glorious Sun, when rising as if out of a distant water, just gilding the tops of the mountains, and giving life to all nature!”

-Thomas Jefferson 1786

Monticello 023Dear Readers,

I want to apologize for my delay in posting to Autographed Letter Signed. I have been in Virgina for the past few days. I call it my “American Tour”. Words cannot describe how I feel when I am in touch which the relics of American History and my stop at Monticello, the estate of Thomas Jefferson did not fail to move me to tears. As I walked through the stately neoclassical structure and the serene, lush gardens I cannot pretend that the lives of the slaves did not figure prominently in my thoughts. There was a distinctive tension between beauty and sadness. Beauty represented by the picturesque grounds, the well preserved furniture, the awesome bond that one feels with America upon seeing Jefferson’s original chess set, his bed or the portrait of Martha Jefferson – the only female member of the family not to die during childbirth. She would raise 11 children.   This brings us to the ghosts of sadness.  Sadness when one thinks that the labor involved with maintaining such a grand place relied on slave labor, over 400 slaves to be exact, I felt the need to pray. The African American Graveyard was the proper place for this. I thanked God for my freedom and the opportunity to be born free in the greatest country in the world. I thanked god for the lives of the slaves and the wonderful work they did on Monticello. I prayed that the slaves were at peace and free from shackles literally as well as those which were self imposed.

40 slaves are buried at the Monticello African American graveyard

40 slaves are buried at the Monticello African American graveyard

I stood before those graves, wearing nice clothes and a postgraduate education, swatting the dragonflies. I would have made a terrible slave, it was so hot and humid- and those hills! I looked from the windows of Monticello and wondered if the view I saw was the same that Sally Hemmings looked at everyday.

The social hierarchy of the time was present in placement of the slave quarters, particularly the kitchen. The kitchen was far away from the main house. A loudspeaker piped in the kitchen sounds. Slave women were humming as they prepared the 1/2 Virginian, 1/2 French meals that Jefferson so loved. The community of unpaid cooks and servants. At that moment, I was so glad to be a Republican.  Why have African Americans come so far only to trade their true liberty for the false security offered by the Democrats and their government programs?

Individual freedom is what this country was founded upon. A copy of the Declaration of Independence hung in Monticello, our tour guide  explained that while the words “All men are created equal” were included, Thomas Jefferson was a man of contradiction. Slavery was in direct opposition to the American Dream.  The constitution says nothing about our right to abortion or heath care but it does afford us the freedom to carve our own destiny. This battle in Washington, DC  does  not concern health care or abortion or the economy. Not really. The battle is about individualism versus collectivism. The slaves collectively cleaned the “masser’s”  house, tended his gardens, cooked his food, raised his children. I as an individual and citizen of the United States of America  am free to walk away from that plantation. I am no body’s slave. Yes as an American, I have obligations to my country, obligations to my family, my community – my very own social contact with America,but that is my choice as an individual. Collective life  demeans and stifles freedom. People who rely upon the government are slaves. Forgive my proselytizing but my rant is simply my shocked reaction to Americans who feel that it is the job of government to be our master and guide. When I see the slave quarters at Monticello, I intuitively respond with anger and strong justification to be proud of my life’s accomplishments- post poverty, post welfare.

Taking a stroll in the Monticello garden.

Taking a stroll in the Monticello garden.

NBRA Cartoon Obama Socialism1Monticello is a gorgeous home. Thomas Jefferson was a great man, a scholar, a man of books. Despite his faults he is a founding father of my country. He may not have wanted me, an African American woman to stand before his great home a free woman. I walked through his dining room as a guest, not a servant. I did not use the slave entrance and when I was finished with my visit, I did something that Jefferson’s slaves could not do…I left on my own.

God Bless America

Autographed Letter Signed,

Afrocity

Monticello 014

Monticello 025

Many great men have walked the path to this house.

Many great men have walked the path to this house.

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16 Responses to “Afrocity on the road: With what majesty do we there ride above the storms!”

  1. afrocity this post touched a chord in me that I think perhaps is unique to black americans. there is a deep and certain poignancy to our journey in this country; a certain gratitude mixed with the pain of history. and there is something else too that your post reminds me and all of us. when you speak of collectivism versus individualism, you speak to the heart of the black american struggle. we were always a “they” a “them” and an “us” and from the beginning we have been exploited by the political classes (mostly democrat) for the maintenance of power. there is a real history to why we were republicans from the beginning of our political liberty. we more than any other “native” ethnic group (except perhaps native indians) know what it is to be un-free and bound by the whims of others opinions about what our destiny and opportunity should be. thank you

  2. realwest Says:

    Afrocity – what a truly beatiful and moving piece of work you’ve done here.
    I would like to clear up a few things about Thomas Jefferson, however – just so the record is straight for you and all who come here.
    TJ drafted the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. It was edited, primarily by Benjamin Franklin. Franklin took out one of TJ’s paragraphs – the one that Thomas Jefferson wrote saying that there would be no slavery in these new United States. Franklin wanted it struck out because as he said at the time, we had precious little chance of winning our independence from Great Britain as it was; that paragraph would never be approved by the Southern colonies (States) and we couldn’t win the war without them. TJ supposedly exclaimed “But Ben, I’m a Southenor from Virginia” and Ben said “No Tom, you are the quintessential human being” and being thus flattered – and convinced – TJ let the paragraph be removed.
    After he was president of our still fledgling nation, he ran for the Virginia House of Burgess (same as any other state’s Senate) and was elected, iirc, some 7 different times. In each of the first days of his terms as a member of the House of Burgess, Tom introduced legistlation mandating the freedom of all slaves. Each time – for seven consecutive terms, he was voted down.
    And then he did try to free his slaves. But he was, if anything, worse at business than was I, and was deeply in debt. And in those times slaves were considered property – with great monetary value attached to them. Four different times Jefferson tried to free his slaves and on each occasion his creditors took him to court and Jefferson was ordered by the Court to not dispose of any valuable assest, including slaves,until all of his debts were paid off in full. I have had the distinct honor and privilige of reading Jeffersons first draft of the Declaration of Independence where Franklin crossed out the paragraph about no slavery, and made other, not relevent here, minor changes to the Declaration. I have also read the court records (only two remain in existence, fortunately the judge in the last case referenced the holdings of the judges in the first two (now lost to time) cases).
    But please do not misunderstand Thomas Jefferson – yes, he used slaves to run his plantation, all the while attempting to give them their freedom. That he was a terribly conflicted individual is obvious; that he did intend that ‘ALL MEN BE FREE” is I think, indisputable.

    • Liberal Larry Says:

      Dont tell me you are defending Thomas Jefferson and slavery. Two words Sally Hemmings. Real west is the sort of white guy that tells black folks that slavery was gods will. Redneck republicans will say anything.

      • Janis Says:

        While you’re (I’m assuming here, correct me if I’m wrong) the kind of white guy that tells black folks that HE PERSONALLY liberated them, so get on your knees and show proper gratitude and get me a beer when you’re done.

  3. boldandbald Says:

    AC, your ability to move me with your words astounds me. I am very glad that you have created this site. I look forward to one day visiting some of this country’s historic places that I have not been able to, as yet. You certainly give me a perspective, however, that I could never have on my own. Thank you.

    Thank you too, realwest. You always provide such interesting historical information, both here and on lgf.

  4. realwest Says:

    Liberal Larry – I was NOT defending slavery. I was trying to set the historical record straight out here. And btw, in the entire “civilised world” at the time, slavery was legal and pracitised all over the world. And guess what? White guys didn’t go to Africa to capture Africans and bring them here, they bought those slaves from other black Africans who had enslaved them first. And I’m afraid that slavery is still practised in parts of Africa and especially Islamic parts of Africa today. No sane person could ever argue that slavery was “god’s will” or anything like that.
    And as for Sally Hemmings – the White Part of the Jefferson clan paid for the DNA tests and welcomed their “new” black cousins as full members of the Jefferson clan – much to the disappoitment of Mike Wallace and “60 Minutes” maybe 20 some odd years ago.
    And I just love your use of “redneck republican” – you don’t know me at all. So tell us all Liberal Larry – what have YOU DONE to combat slavery in the world TODAY?! Hmmmm? It’s only out of respect for Afrocity that I don’t tell you what I really think of you.

    • Janis Says:

      I’ll tell you what he’s done — he’s PERSONALLY not lynched OR raped anyone (that chick he knew in college was drunk and lying, he swears it), and he’s never once gotten the abject gratitude he deserves for either of those things!

      And yet despite this he CONTINUES out of the goodness of his heart to not lynch anyone, every single day! Oh, the humanity.

      I won’t mention the rape. He steers clear of that with lots of porn. Which the founding fathers personally condoned in the first amendment, you know. *rolls eyes*

  5. LJSNAustin Says:

    Afrocity, I could not help but be reminded of Langston Hughes’ “I, Too, Sing America” while reading your post:

    “Tomorrow,
    I’ll be at the table
    When company comes.
    Nobody’ll dare
    Say to me,
    ‘Eat in the kitchen,’
    Then.”

    I, too, am amazed at your ability to reach right down into your readers’ hearts with your writing. What a beautiful and thought-provoking post! The pictures are fabulous. I’m so glad you are having a great time.

  6. soupcity Says:

    Oh Afrocity, this is wonderful, you always touch me so deeply with your writing. Thank You!

    You have a truly unique gift of pulling a reader right to where you are, can’t learn that, can only be born with it.

  7. Kathy Barkulis Says:

    I loved this article; so moving and honest. I don’t believe that Thomas Jefferson did all that he could have done to free his slaves. Nor do I believe that many people at the time truly were morally strong enough to do so. I believe that they caved in to the pressures of their peers, and refused to risk their status for speaking out against slavery. I see this happening today too, where many people will not speak out against their political party even when they know their party is wrong, or hypocritical.
    Afro, safe and happy travels!

  8. boldandbald Says:

    AC, I was going to send this to you privately, but decided to do this out in the open. Please see to it that Liberal Larry is no longer able to post here. I know that have tried to encourage opposing viewpoints, and I commend you for that. However, his posts offer nothing of value and are blatant insults to you and your posters.

    This is my opinion, only. I will no longer respond to anything that he posts.

    • afrocity Says:

      Liberal Larry has been sent a warning. His posts cannot berate myself personally or other posters. While I do not agree with Larry’s viewpoints, I do not want ALS to become the sort of blog that bans posters for having an opinion that may differ from the blog host (me).

      Liberal Larry has one more time to clean up his act. That means no more personal attacks.

  9. Janis Says:

    “He may not have wanted
    me, an African American woman to stand before his great home a free
    woman.”

    He would have liked it in the abstract, but not known how to deal with it when it stared him in the face. I admire his brains, and I admire the fact that, even though he may not have agreed where the country would wind up, he nevertheless helped give it the tools to get there. But in the way he liked and could cope with abstract people and freedoms more than the real things, he was definitely the precursor to the current Democratic party.

  10. HT Says:

    Delurking – beautiful and heartfelt post. Thank you.

  11. Thoroughly enjoyed this post! Nice pics–love the cartoon, lol. Thanks AC!

  12. 5ft. Rattler Says:

    I so enjoyed reading your post. I’ve seen your site referenced on other blogs but hadn’t wandered over for a visit till now. I wish you every success and many happy travels. Beautiful pictures!


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