MONTPELIER STATION, Va. (AP) — The homes of slaves who toiled on President James Madison’s estate in Virginia are being rebuilt for the first time.
Crews at Montpelier, the mansion in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, are excavating and reconstructing six structures on what’s called the South Yard, where domestic slaves lived and worked.
The slave quarters were cleared away more than 150 years ago and planted over with grass. The reconstruction began in 2015 after a gift from David Rubenstein, a Washington philanthropist and history buff.
Rubenstein also gave money to pay for refurnishing parts of the home where Madison drafted ideas that would become the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. He told The Associated Press at the time that he wanted to help make the estate more authentic.
The dwellings, smokehouses and kitchen will be part of Montpelier’s new exhibition, The Mere Distinction of Color, which opens in June.
Vice President of Museum Programs Elizabeth Chew said the exhibition will be a “new chapter” in terms of how the estate talks and teaches about slavery, with a greater emphasis on what life would have been like for the slaves, as well as the legacy of slavery on contemporary society.
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