Thomas Jefferson’s true stance on slavery

| January 21, 2013

Author Henry Wiencek is coming to Sweet Briar. Photo by Tom Cogill.

Noted author and historian Henry Wiencek will discuss his latest book, “Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves,” at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Feb 12, in the Wailes Lounge at the Elston Inn Conference Center at Sweet Briar College. A reception and book signing will follow the event, which is free and open to the public.

Drawing on evidence from archival documents at Monticello, Wiencek reveals a Thomas Jefferson most readers won’t be familiar with — one who, despite calling slavery an “abomination,” began considering slaves an excellent investment after the nation was founded. Wiencek shows that Jefferson, while continuing to speak out against it, in fact helped to modernize and expand slavery after the 1780s.

Published in October 2012, “Master of the Mountain” was featured on the covers of Smithsonian and American History magazines and has been widely acclaimed. The Washington Post deemed it a “brilliant examination of the dark side of the man who gave the world the most ringing declarations about human liberty, yet in his own life repeatedly violated the principles they expressed … Now the record has been corrected, to devastating effect.”

In her review during a recent Fresh Air” episode on National Public Radio, Georgetown University professor Maureen Corrigan predicted that “political pundits and Jeffersonians [would] be wrestling over Wiencek’s explosive interpretations of the historical evidence … for years to come.”

Wiencek has been studying plantation families for more than two decades. He is the author of several award-winning books, including 1999’s “The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White” and 2003’s “An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America.” He holds a fellowship at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and has been awarded residential fellowships at the International Center for Jefferson Studies and the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College, where he was the inaugural Patrick Henry Writing Fellow. He lives in Charlottesville. To learn more, visit

The event is sponsored by the Tusculum Institute and by Sweet Briar College’s Lectures and Events Committee. For more information, contact Lynn Rainville at (434) 381-6432 or [email protected].


Category: History, Tusculum Institute