In this Wednesday, April 12, 2017 photo, Jennifer Glass, director of Archeology and Historical Preservation at James Madison's estate, gestures in front of some of the reconstructed slave cabins in the South Yard of the property in Montpelier, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Slave quarters rebuilt at Madison's Montpelier
May 16, 2017
The homes of slaves who toiled on President James Madison's estate in Virginia are being rebuilt.
Work crews are at Montpelier, the mansion in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The crews are excavating and reconstructing six structures on what's called the South Yard. That is where domestic slaves lived and worked.
The slave quarters were cleared away more than 150 years ago and planted over with grass. The reconstruction began in 2015 after a gift from David Rubenstein. He is a Washington philanthropist and history buff.
Rubenstein also gave money to pay for refurnishing parts of the home. It's where Madison drafted ideas that would become the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Rubenstein told The Associated Press that he wanted to help make the estate more authentic.
The dwellings, smokehouses and kitchen will be part of Montpelier's new exhibition. It is called The Mere Distinction of Color. It opens in June.
Elizabeth Chew is Vice President of Museum Programs. She said the exhibition will be a "new chapter" in terms of how the estate talks and teaches about slavery. There will be a greater emphasis on what life would have been like for the slaves, as well as the legacy of slavery on contemporary society.
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