A Celebration Highlighting the Significance of Descendant Voices in American History

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA, June 14, 2022 /24-7PressRelease/ — On Saturday, June 18, 2022, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello will host Ascendant: The Power of Descendant Communities to Shape Our Stories, Places, and Future. This is a public program in recognition of Juneteenth that specifically aims to uplift descendant voices that have often been marginalized, or left out completely. The event will be a thoughtful space for descendants of Monticello’s enslaved families, thought leaders, writers, artists, and historians to discuss the importance of descendant voices in the telling of American history.

Ascendant will honor and host Monticello’s Getting Word community for the private rededication of the Burial Ground for Enslaved People. The Getting Word African American Oral History Project, begun in 1993, has sought out descendants of the enslaved community at Monticello. More than 400 members of descendant families will be in attendance, making it the largest reunion of descendants of the enslaved in Monticello’s history. Artworks by groundbreaking painter Titus Kaphar, and Getting Word descendant Jabari Jefferson will be on exhibit through July 10, some of them specially created for the occasion.

With 1,000 anticipated attendees, Ascendant will be hosted on Monticello’s West Lawn and will consist of musical performances, poetry, and panel discussions, featuring filmmaker Ava DuVernay, The Atlantic writer Clint Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed, musician Wynton Marsalis, and Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, to name a few, all in conversation with Getting Word descendants.

“We are excited to welcome more than 400 descendant family members to Monticello, where their ancestors were once enslaved, to participate in the rededication of the Burial Ground for Enslaved People,” said Leslie Greene Bowman, president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. “We have worked with Getting Word participants for four years to renovate and sanctify this resting place, and in honor of its completion, we are proud to host a public conference with inspiring conversations and performing and visual arts. We are privileged that so many descendants have entrusted us with their family stories. We will continue to work with them to share those stories as an essential part of the inclusive American story that Monticello provides, one that foregrounds both the promises of freedom and the realities of slavery at the plantation home of the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson.”

For nearly thirty years, the Getting Word African American Oral History Project has transformed the history shared at Monticello as descendants have shared their family stories. Getting Word has also connected descendants with shared family histories and empowers them to use their voices to shape recollections of American history.

This event is free and open to the public, as well as available to view virtually but registration is required. To register and view the event schedule, please visit the Monticello website. To learn more about the Getting Word African American Oral Project at monticello.org/gettingword.

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