The Unknown Soldier and our Unknown history of Slavery

Today in class, we started an interesting conversation when discussing the Miller’s play Stragglers in the Dark. The play brings up the controversial idea of who has the right and honor to be buried there and how the play challenges the idea that a black soldier in the tomb would not be “a terrible joke on America!”. We were each able to reflect on how the history of slaves and people of color were not and are still not memorialized or taught within our school systems. Too often we whitewash history but with our generation, we are able to have conversations about what we could do to challenge and even correct how we remember history.

Today I wanted to share with you all something that is very interesting to me. Monticello Foundation has started a program called Getting Word, an oral history project to retrace and include the enslaved narratives by tracking down the descendants and changing how they present the history of Monticello. Although I see that this effort has long awaited, I recognize the step forward for this Historical Plantation and foundation to challenge other historical parks and memorials to make the same efforts. By simple changes from changing how guides will change there term of “servants” to “slaves” and gaining the oral histories of slaves who lived at Monticello through their descendants, they have promised to make Monticello a place that no longer whitewashes history. This project is the first of its kind for remembering the true people who built our most memorialized buildings and memorials. I believe that by teaching their guests and students who come to Monticello about the slave narratives, this will then, in turn, could challenge the narratives our teachers, and communities teach future generations about Slavery and race relations in the United States.


Here are links to the Getting Word Article by and the Monticello Website.


2 thoughts on “The Unknown Soldier and our Unknown history of Slavery

  1. I think this is such an important step forward. I remember hearing something about this when I took Gable’s anthro class, because he studied visitors who toured Monticello. At the time, I think there was an effort to create such a program, but I think it received some harsh feedback because of how it was conducted, so I’m glad they have renewed their efforts. Everywhere we look, there are hidden, unsung narratives that really need to be revealed.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this news! Through the day-trips my family went on and the field trips I attended with my schools, I constantly went to historical places and at the time the ways that history was whitewashed often went over my head. As I grew older, and especially through classes like this one, I learned to identify these issues and be better at recognizing them. To learn that the Monticello Foundation is taking this step is really important and powerful to me, because hopefully it is showing progress in the right direction in terms of honestly achknowledging history.

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