From 1723 to 1844, during the Madison family's ownership of the property, hundreds of African and African-American slaves supported the Montpelier plantation. Five, six, and possibly seven generations of African Americans were born into slavery at Montpelier.
Understanding daily life at Montpelier during the 18th and early 19th centuries must include the contributions and sacrifices of the enslaved community who were an integral and intimate part of the site. Slave ownership was a way of life for the southern planter elite, of which the Madison family was a part, which became an uneasy inheritance for James Madison. Despite his concerns, the institution remained well entrenched, both at Montpelier and for the nation, until the end of the Civil War.
The Montpelier Foundation is exploring the enslaved community through archaeological excavations, documentary research on the community, and conducting oral histories.
The Arc of Citizenship
Montpelier's expert guides address how interpretations of the Constitution evolved over time in relation to the African-American struggle from slavery, to freedom, and beyond.