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Monticello awarded $3.5M grant for oral histories project

Monticello awarded $3.5M grant for oral histories project

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello has been awarded $3.5 million by the Mellon Foundation to continue telling stories of the historic estate’s enslaved people.

The grant will go towards the Getting Word African American Oral History Project, which collects and shares stories of Monticello’s enslaved community and their descendants.

“We are inspired by the Mellon Foundation’s grant to Getting Word,” Andrew M. Davenport, public historian and director of Getting Word, said in a statement. “Through archival research and collaboration with descendants, Getting Word historians have reconnected families riven apart by slavery and its aftermath. The project, as an archive and as a community, has helped to recontextualize Monticello as a Black heritage site of reflection, remembrance, and reunion.”

The grant will allow the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which oversees Monticello and its programs, to hire program staff and expand its outreach.

The recent support could allow Getting Word to double its collection of oral histories by adding more than 275 histories over the next four years, according to a Monticello statement.

The Mellon Foundation supports arts and humanities initiatives across the nation, and this grant to Monticello is part of its larger Monuments Project. The project was launched in 2020 and commits $250 million to public projects in the U.S. that “more completely and accurately represent the multiplicity and complexity of American stories,” according to Monticello.


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