Former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson's Monticello plantation in Virginia will be rebuilt with a $10 million gift by a philanthropist named David Rubenstein, according to the Associated Press.
At least two buildings will be restored on Mulberry Row, where slaves worked and lived on the estate. The money will also be used to restore the second and third floors of Jefferson’s home. The buildings and paths on the plantation will be recreated following a blueprint dating back to 1796.
Rubenstein, the co-CEO of The Carlyle Group private equity firm, says he took a personal interest in restoring Jefferson's estate after studying Jefferson's work over the years and owns multiple copies of the Declaration of Independence, which Jefferson helped to draft.
“I think it’s important to tell people the good and the bad of American history, not only the things that we might like to hear,” Rubenstein said. “And the bad of it is that as great as Jefferson was, nobody can deny that he was a slave owner."
Some historians believe that Thomas Jefferson fathered the six children of Sally Hemings, a slave that lived on his plantation. His descendents are also belieived to have held important positions on Monticello.
The Associated Press reports:
“I think if Jefferson were around today, he would say ‘I would like to see Monticello restored as it was."
The gift follows major donations Rubenstein has made to preserve U.S. history at former President George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, at the earthquake-damaged Washington Monument in the nation’s capital and elsewhere.
He said he’s driven, in part, by concern that Americans don’t know enough about their history.
Leslie Green Bowman, the president and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, called Rubenstein’s gift “transformational.” It ranks among the top five gifts in the foundation’s history since it purchased the estate in 1923 and began restoring Monticello for historical tours.
Monticello has been studying slavery for decades and has provided descriptions of slave life since 1993. Rebuilding sites where slaves lived and worked on Mulberry Row, though, represents a change to include even more African-American history.
“It’s a huge step forward that we’re including that story as an essential part of Monticello’s history,” Bowman said. “Jefferson did not live here in a vacuum.”
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(Photo: AP Photo/Steve Helber)