My Monticello, Fiction

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Novels, United States, Virginia on 2021-10-21 00:21Z by Steven

My Monticello, Fiction

Henry Holt & Company (an imprint of Macmillan)
2021-10-05
240 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9781250807151
e-Book ISBN: 9781250807168
Audiobook ISBN: 9781250820723
Compact Disk ISBN: 9781250820716

Jocelyn Nicole Johnson

A young woman descended from Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings driven from her neighborhood by a white militia. A university professor studying racism by conducting a secret social experiment on his own son. A single mother desperate to buy her first home even as the world hurtles toward catastrophe. Each fighting to survive in America.

Tough-minded, vulnerable, and brave, Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s precisely imagined debut explores burdened inheritances and extraordinary pursuits of belonging. Set in the near future, the eponymous novella, “My Monticello,” tells of a diverse group of Charlottesville neighbors fleeing violent white supremacists. Led by Da’Naisha, a young Black descendant of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, they seek refuge in Jefferson’s historic plantation home in a desperate attempt to outlive the long-foretold racial and environmental unravelling within the nation.

In “Control Negro,” hailed by Roxane Gay as “one hell of story,” a university professor devotes himself to the study of racism and the development of ACMs (average American Caucasian males) by clinically observing his own son from birth in order to “painstakingly mark the route of this Black child too, one whom I could prove was so strikingly decent and true that America could not find fault in him unless we as a nation had projected it there.” Johnson’s characters all seek out home as a place and an internal state, whether in the form of a Nigerian widower who immigrates to a meager existence in the city of Alexandria, finding himself adrift; a young mixed-race woman who adopts a new tongue and name to escape the landscapes of rural Virginia and her family; or a single mother who seeks salvation through “Buying a House Ahead of the Apocalypse.”

United by these characters’ relentless struggles against reality and fate, My Monticello is a formidable book that bears witness to this country’s legacies and announces the arrival of a wildly original new voice in American fiction.

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It’s Never Too Late to Publish a Debut Book and Score a Netflix Deal

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Interviews, Media Archive, United States, Virginia on 2021-10-03 03:22Z by Steven

It’s Never Too Late to Publish a Debut Book and Score a Netflix Deal

The New York Times
2021-09-28

Isaac Fitzgerald


Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, a public school art teacher for 20 years, is the author of “My Monticello,” her debut book. She also has a Netflix film deal. Matt Eich for The New York Times

Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, at 50, is not the average age of a debut author. But the public school teacher describes herself as a “literary debutante” with the October publication of “My Monticello.”

Jocelyn Nicole Johnson has been a public school art teacher for 20 years, but she is not in her elementary classroom this fall in Charlottesville, Va. Her debut collection, “My Monticello” — five short stories and the book’s title novella — will be published on Oct. 5. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead has called “My Monticello” “nimble, knowing, and electrifying,” and Esquire named “My Monticello,” published by Henry Holt, one of the best books of the fall, writing that it “announces the arrival of an electric new literary voice.”

To top that off, Netflix plans to turn the book’s title novella into a film. In the novella, which is set in the near future, a young woman who is descended from Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, and a band of largely Black and brown survivors take refuge from marauding white supremacists in Monticello, Jefferson’s homestead…

Read the entire interview here.

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Yes, There Are Women of Color in the DAR

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2021-08-21 03:16Z by Steven

Yes, There Are Women of Color in the DAR

Washingtonian
2021-04-07

Rosa Cartagena


Reisha Raney at the headquarters of the DAR’s Maryland chapter. Photograph by Lauren Bulbin

A Maryland researcher—and relative of Thomas Jefferson—is exploring their stories.

Reisha Raney had never listened to a podcast when she decided to start one last year. A mathematician who runs a systems-engineering company in Fort Washington, Raney has, as a side project, spent years researching women of color who have joined the Daughters of the American Revolution. She was drawn to this topic for one obvious reason: Raney herself is a Black member of the DAR.

To Raney, the backgrounds of people like her—which often involve disturbing relationships between enslavers and the enslaved—represent an important aspect of our past. So after a two-week crash course in podcasting, she launched Daughter Dialogues, which features her interviews with current DAR members. “I had no expectation to ever run into any of these other Black women” in the society, she says. “We were so scarce that I expected to be the only one in the room all the time.” In fact, that hasn’t been the case; she has so far found and interviewed 22 women of color. Still, that’s a tiny fraction of the DAR’s 180,000-plus membership. (The group doesn’t keep track of racial demographics.)…

Read the entire article here.

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‘Passing’ led to new lives and safety

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2020-03-07 00:46Z by Steven

‘Passing’ led to new lives and safety

The Daily Progress
Charlottesville, Virginia
2020-02-08

Bryan McKenzie, News Reporter


Bryan McKenzie/The Daily Progress File
Catherine Kerrison explains to moderator Clarence Page and participant Lisa Page the mystery of what happened to Thomas Jefferson’s daughter Harriet after she ‘passed’ into white society. The three participated in a Monticello program on ‘passing’ on Saturday.

For more than two centuries, many African Americans left their families and identities behind, crossing into white society as a way of securing freedom, self-preservation and economic advancement, two university professors who have researched the phenomenon told a Monticello audience on Saturday.

Known as “passing,” many African Americans and Americans of mixed race chose to present themselves as white in order to attain privileges, freedoms and security. Passing often meant turning their backs on family, friends and hometowns, sometimes for the rest of their lives.

Lisa Page, co-editor of “We Wear The Mask: 15 True Stories of Passing in America,” joined Catherine Kerrison, author of “Jefferson’s Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America” in the program. The panel is part of a slate of events and exhibitions by Monticello during Black History Month

Read the entire article here.

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UVA and the History of Race: Eugenics, the Racial Integrity Act, Health Disparities

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Virginia on 2020-01-16 03:45Z by Steven

UVA and the History of Race: Eugenics, the Racial Integrity Act, Health Disparities

UVA Today
2020-01-09

P. Preston Reynolds, Professor of Medicine and Nursing
University of Virginia


Thomas Jefferson’s writings included observations about race that aligned with later eugenicists. Under the medical school deanship of Paul Brandon Barringer, right, UVA built its first hospital in 1901, but also continued to advance eugenic science.

Editor’s note: Even an institution as historic as the University of Virginia – now entering its third century – has stories yet to be told. Some are inspiring, while the truths of others are painful, but necessary for a fuller accounting of the past. The President’s Commissions on Slavery and on the University in the Age of Segregation were established to find and tell those stories. Here are some of them, written by those who did the research. One in an occasional series:

By the start of the 20th century, the University of Virginia had become a center of an emerging new strain of racism – eugenics – that would create and perpetuate myths created under the guise of scientific research, but ultimately was intended to demonstrate white racial superiority.

The goal of eugenic science was knowledge of how various traits – emotional, physical, intellectual – were inherited, so that such information could be applied in order to advance the human race and preserve imagined racial superiority. Eugenic scientists used the census, genealogy, measurement of physiological functions and human anatomy, as well as intelligence testing, as methods of investigation.

They believed application of eugenic knowledge, through legislation and community practices, would eliminate mental illness, physical disabilities, moral delinquency, crime and even physical illnesses. They assumed the benefit to society would be a dramatic reduction in the cost of caring for the sick, poor, mentally ill and incarcerated…

Read the entire article here.

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Overflow Crowd Attends Slover Lecture On Jefferson’s Black Daughter

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia, Women on 2019-02-25 02:39Z by Steven

Overflow Crowd Attends Slover Lecture On Jefferson’s Black Daughter

The New Journal & Guide
Norfolk, Virginia
2019-02-03

Overflow Crowd Attends Slover Lecture On Jefferson’s Black Daughter

An overflow crowd was on hand Sunday, Jan. 27 at the Slover Library in downtown Norfolk to hear Dr. Catherine Kerrison discuss her latest book, “Jefferson’s Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in A Young America.” Kerrison is an associate professor of history at Villanova University, where she teaches courses in colonial and revolutionary America and women’s and gender history.

The event was the second of three lectures in the Catherine Lee Brinkley Memorial Lecture Series being offered by the Slover Library to “keep the spirit of community discourse about current events alive and to celebrate recently published books of national note.” It is being sponsored by Jane Batten, who was in attendance, as was former Mayor Paul Fraim, who heads the Slover Library Foundation.

Kerrison’s expert re-search and writing on Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson, the primary writer of the Declaration of Independence, and the third president of the United States, may have added to the crowd’s interest. Certainly, the sexual liaison between Jefferson and his enslaved companion Sally Hemings has been a topic of discussion and controversy since the relationship was disclosed several years ago…

Read the entire article here.

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Thomas Jefferson’s descendants unite over a troubled past

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Videos, Virginia on 2019-02-19 15:00Z by Steven

Thomas Jefferson’s descendants unite over a troubled past

CBS This Morning
CBS News
2019-02-14

At the expansive Monticello Estate in Virginia, there sits a simple room with white walls, brick floors and a single silhouette that represents the life of Sally Hemings, one of Thomas Jefferson’s more than 600 slaves.

Presidential estates have long struggled with how to present the founding era exceptionalism along with the full history. The latest installation at Monticello, the Sally Hemming’s exhibit, gives the most personal look yet at a shameful chapter in American history. The exhibit takes a definitive stance on her relationship with Thomas Jefferson and the children they had together. A story once hidden now has the spotlight.

Lucian Truscott is Jefferson’s sixth-great-grandson. Shannon Lanier is also Jefferson’s sixth-great-grandson — but from Hemings’ side.

As a Jefferson descendant, Truscott said he was given run of Monticello, even jumping on his ancestor’s bed. Lanier’s story is a little different…

Watch the story here.

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After more than two centuries of willful collective ignorance about Jefferson and Hemings, it might sound far-fetched to suggest that she ought to be designated a first lady. But our country was populated through precisely this sort of racial mixing — sexual relationships that, it bears repeating, enslaved people such as Hemings did not choose for themselves.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2019-01-05 01:57Z by Steven

After more than two centuries of willful collective ignorance about Jefferson and Hemings, it might sound far-fetched to suggest that she ought to be designated a first lady. But our country was populated through precisely this sort of racial mixing — sexual relationships that, it bears repeating, enslaved people such as Hemings did not choose for themselves.

Evelia Jones, “It’s time to recognize Sally Hemings as a first lady of the United States,” The Los Angeles Times, January 4, 2019. https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-jones-sally-hemings-first-lady-20190104-story.html.

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It’s time to recognize Sally Hemings as a first lady of the United States

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia, Women on 2019-01-05 01:31Z by Steven

It’s time to recognize Sally Hemings as a first lady of the United States

The Los Angeles Times
2019-01-04

Evelia Jones

It’s time to recognize Sally Hemings as a first lady of the United States
A man reads a plaque about Sally Hemings at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s estate in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday, June 16, 2018. (Steve Ruark / Associated Press)

It is now widely understood that my ancestor Sally Hemings, an enslaved black woman, was the intimate companion of Thomas Jefferson for nearly four decades.

Monticello, the Virginia plantation operated as a museum by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, acknowledged as much with a new exhibit last year: Hemings’ living quarters. The exhibit presents as fact that Hemings gave birth to at least six of Jefferson’s children.

Much about their relationship remains lost to history. We know that Hemings was Jefferson’s property, and that in America she did not have the right to refuse sexual advances from her owner. We also know that Hemings was able to negotiate freedom for her children and “extraordinary privileges” for herself, and that she occupied a central place in Jefferson’s life…

Read the entire article here.

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The Legacy of Monticello’s Black First Family

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2018-07-06 03:13Z by Steven

The Legacy of Monticello’s Black First Family

The New York Times
2018-07-04

Brent Staples
Photographs by Damon Winter


A view of Thomas Jefferson’s home from the main avenue where enslaved people were quartered at Monticello.

A recently opened exhibit at Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia estate gives new recognition to Sally Hemings and the role of slavery in the home — and in his family.

Plantation wives in the slave-era South resorted to willful blindness when their husbands conscripted black women as sexual servants and filled the household with mixed-race children who inevitably resembled the master. Thomas Jefferson’s wife, Martha, was several years dead when he set off on this path, fathering at least six children with Martha’s enslaved black half sister, Sally Hemings. The task of dissembling fell to the remaining white Jeffersons, who aided in a cover-up that held sway for two centuries and feigned ignorance of a relationship between Jefferson and Hemings that lasted nearly four decades.

The foundation that owns Monticello, Jefferson’s mountaintop home near Charlottesville, Va., broke with this long-running deception last month when it unveiled several new exhibits that underscore the centrality of slavery on the founder’s estate. The most important — in the South Wing, where Sally Hemings once lived — explores the legacy of the enslaved woman whom some historians view as the president’s second wife and who skillfully prevailed on him to free from slavery the four Jefferson-Hemings children who lived into adulthood.

The exhibit underscores the fact that the Jefferson estate was an epicenter of racial mixing in early Virginia, making it impossible to draw clear lines between black and white. It reminds contemporary Americans that slave owners like the Jeffersons often held their own black children, aunts, uncles and cousins in bondage. And it illustrates how enslaved near-white relations used proximity to privilege to demystify whiteness while taking critical measure of the relatives who owned them…

Read the entire article here.

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