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Descendants of enslaved Blacks explore Virginia history

Growing up, George Monroe Jr. avoided the historical site that was just a few miles from his family’s property in Virginia, James Monroe’s Highland.

“To be honest with you, the old folks, the family back in the day, they frowned on it,” he said. “Who really wants to go visit a plantation, knowing your family members were enslaved there?”

But when an archaeological discovery there a few years ago made headlines, he was drawn to the Virginia property once owned by the fifth president in Charlottesville. And when he told a staff member about what his family had always told him about their past, he forged a connection: Now he’s one of a council of descendant advisers who are helping to reframe the way history is told at the site, a narrative that no longer simply glorifies the Founding Father, but also tells a far more complicated history that interweaves the experiences of the elite alongside those of the people Monroe enslaved, those who also lived on the estate.

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