Slavery at Monticello: Life and Work at Mulberry Row

App review by
Patricia Montic..., Common Sense Media
Slavery at Monticello: Life and Work at Mulberry Row App Poster Image
Engrossing images and audio reveal untold stories.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about the lives of the people who lived and worked on Jefferson's estate. They can explore images and stories and consider their impact on history. Through images, video, and audio, kids can connect more personally with individuals' stories and the realities of their daily lives. The Themes section lets kids explore some of the realities of being a slave, including separation of family and punishment. Though the scope is limited, and there is no embedded forum to share reflections and reactions, Slavery at Monticello: Life and Work at Mulberry Row offers a unique window onto the lives of people who had to live and work at the site of one of our country's historical landmarks and for an important historical figure.

Ease of Play

The app's easy to navigate, though the interactive map isn't as responsive as users might expect.

Violence

While there's nothing explicit, the section on Resistance and Violence certainly describes and discusses violence against enslaved people by slave owners and overseers.

Sex

There are discussions of sexual partnerships -- between Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson, most famously -- but nothing explicit.

Language
Consumerism

The app understandably promotes visiting the Monticello historic site, but there's no need to buy anything.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

There are some historical depictions of smoking and some references to alcohol produced on site at Monticello.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Slavery at Monticello: Live and Work at Mulberry Row is an app that delves into the lives of the enslaved people who lived and worked at President Thomas Jefferson's Monticello estate. It features images, infographics, videos, and narration and is made for use while visiting Monticello, though it's not necessary to visit to use the app.

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What's it about?

SLAVERY AT MONTICELLO: LIFE AND WORK ON MULBERRY ROW is reference tool that explores life on the lane that served as the main economic hub of the Monticello estate outside Charlottesville, Virginia. The app reflects some major work by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation to expand its coverage, tours, and narrative attention to the lives of the hundreds of slaves who lived in and around Jefferson's famous manse at Monticello. The app has three sections: Sites includes an interactive map of the area, People has biographies of people who lived at Monticello and Mulberry Row, and Themes explores critical historical ideas. Each entry in People includes a one-liner about that each person's role, a brief biography and time line, videos, infographics, and stories about the larger historical context of each person's life. Themes delves more deeply into major issues that faced the people who worked on Mulberry Row, including Family & Separation, Living & Working Conditions, Racial Identity, and Resistance & Punishment.

Is it any good?

As it explores an actual historical site, this resource addresses the brutality and complexity of slavery and explores the problematic, often-troubling legacy of Thomas Jefferson's slave ownership. The narrators use the term "enslaved people" rather than "slaves," and there's a focus on the nuance, details, and challenges of these individuals' lives. It's a tough thing to do well, and the developers and historians do an admirable, sensitive job of addressing these problematic issues and exploring them. For instance, there's an audio excerpt titled "A Continuum of Power" that addresses how Sally Hemings, as a slave, would have been unable to refuse Jefferson, and that women in general were seen as inferior to men. Though the stories and images are strong, more links out to primary source documents and more opportunities to engage with the content would take this app to the next level. Users can share that they're using the app via social media or email, but it would be even better if they could share more about their experience and reflect on it more deeply: Some kind of forum or space for reflection and discussion would help this app more successfully and more sustainably begin a powerful dialogue.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the legacy of slavery in the United States and the experiences of enslaved people. Use this app as a starting point for further research and exploration, whether you explore these individuals' lives or the themes in greater detail.

  • If your family gets the chance to visit Monticello, you're in luck: Use the app on a mobile device to guide your walking tour and learn about the historic significance of different sites on the grounds.

App details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love history

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