DETROIT (FOX 2) - History is not simple, and is often not pretty.
A new exhibit opening this weekend at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit highlights just that.
The exhibit "Paradox of Liberty: Slavery at Jefferson's Monticello," examines the lives and legacies of six enslaved black families at Thomas Jefferson's famous Virginia plantation, Monticello.
The exhibit touches on the contradiction of Jefferson being a Founding Father, having enlightened and informed ideas about individual rights, yet that his status was also a person who enslaved hundreds over his lifetime. He also had six children with Sally Hemmings, a slave, beginning when she was just 16 years old.
"I think that people are concerned that he wrote the Declaration of Independence and then did not consider African people, people. Did not consider them "free" or ever to be free," says Parina Chapman with the museum.
She walked us through parts of the exhibit, which you can see in the video player above. When you enter, you'll see a statue of Thomas Jefferson with the names of the more than 600 people who were enslaved at his plantation.
The exhibition has more than 300 objects on display including works of art, documents, and artifacts unearthed at Monticello.
"They found items where the enslaved people lived, in their cabins, that they touched, felt, made, created - things such as tools that they made. Items that they made from those tools, such as cabinets. Because they were artisans they didn't just work on the farm as cotton pickers, you know, they were much more. They ran Monticello, and there were some who had families there for five generations. So we highlight on those families and the significance of family," explains Chapman.
"Many people ask, especially kids, why didn't they just run away? Well, they had families - and five generations on that plantation is very important to them."
The exhibition also features oral histories from the descendants of the six families that were enslaved at Monticello. The exhibition aims to allow us to come face to face with the legacy of slavery through the eyes of enslaved families and their descendants.
You can check out the exhibit now through June 22.