Presidents’ Day falls on the third Monday in February and commemorates the executive branch of the highest office in the land. The holiday is especially pertinent in Virginia because the Commonwealth calls itself “the birthplace of Presidents” because so many of those leaders called Virginia home.
Accessing those historical properties is only a drive from Richmond. With preserved buildings and docent tours, at almost all of these properties, visitors can absorb the stories and lives of the famous residents. The reality is many of these leaders were also slave owner, so their lofty ideas of leadership and rights for all are questionable when we learn about the forced labor and harsh lives lived by those who were under bondage.
Presidents Day also falls during Black History Month, so when you visit these estates, be sure to learn about the lives of the enslaved African Americans who also lived in these properties. Curators at these museums are taking a tough look at the lives and experiences of the enslaved workers. That means visitors can learn those often heart wrenching details – their names, forced family separations, and harsh lives – sometimes told in their own or their descendants’ words.
And don’t forget: Virginia’s presidential primary is set for TUESDAY, MARCH 3, 2020. The Deadline to register to vote, or update an existing registration for the primary, is Monday, February 10, 2020. The deadline to request an absentee ballot to be mailed to you is Tuesday, February 25, 2020. Your request must be received by your Registrar by 5:00 p.m. You can register, request your absentee ballot and see who is on your ballot by going to: ELECTIONS.VIRGINIA.DOT.GOV.
- Mount Vernon (3200 Mount Vernon Hwy, Mt Vernon, VA 22121) is the historic home of George Washington the first president of the United States, and his wife Martha, located 13 miles south of Washington, D.C. The exhibition Lives Bound Together: Slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon explores the personal stories of the people enslaved at Mount Vernon while providing insight into George Washington’s evolving opposition to slavery. Through September 30, 2020. On the 60-minute tour tour: The Enslaved People of Mount Vernon, visitors can listen to the stories of the enslaved people who built and operated Mount Vernon, and learn about their daily lives on the estate. Daily, February-March, 11:30AM; April-December, 10AM & 2PM.
Related post: Richmond Institutions Celebrate Black History Month
- Monticello (931 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy, Charlottesville, VA 22902) was the primary plantation of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States. Thomas Jefferson enslaved over 600 people throughout his life. Four hundred men, women and children lived in bondage at Monticello.Sally Hemmings and her family were enslaved at Monticello. To learn more about her life, take the Hemmings Family Tour. This 1-hour, 45-minute, small-group interactive tour explores Monticello using the stories of several members of the Hemings Family. Through their experiences, you will learn about the challenges they faced as they negotiated to maintain family ties and strove for freedom. The tour also highlights how the Hemingses straddled the color line, defying the stark racial dividing lines imposed in American slavery. Guests on tour are encouraged to share their own experiences and perspectives along the way. The tour includes dialogue about race and the legacies of slavery in the United States in a seated small group setting as well as exploration of the site through the lens of the Hemings family.
- Poplar Forest (1542 Bateman Bridge Road, Forest, VA 24551) was Thomas Jefferson’s country retreat. The Enslaved Community Tour gives visitors a change to discover the men, women and children who lived and toiled on the property. Guides tell the authentic stories of resistance, despair and perseverance. From April through October.
- Madison’s Montpelier (11350 Constitution Highway, Montpelier Station, VA22957) Was the home of President James Madison, the Father of the Constitution and architect of the Bill of Rights and Dolley Madison, his wife. The estate features the historic home, gardens, exhibits, tours and miles of walking tours. The mere distinction of Color is described as a “groundbreaking exhibition uses slavery to connect the past to the present through the lens of the Constitution, and honestly examines the paradox that is America’s founding era.” Visitors can also take a tour of Montpelier’s Enslaved Community. During Presidents’ Day Weekend, Montpelier will be offering tours every half hour from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Specialty tours include: Saturday-Monday at 1:30 p.m.: “Madison and the Constitution” – $22/adults; $9/children 6-14; free/children under 6. Saturday at 12:00 p.m.: “Journey from Slavery to Freedom” – Free walking/driving tour. Sunday-Monday at 12:00 p.m.: “Montpelier’s Enslaved Community” – Free walking tour.
- Tuckahoe Plantation, the boyhood home of Thomas Jefferson (12601 River Rd, Richmond, VA 23238) The site’s website states: “An effort is underway at Tuckahoe today to deal more candidly with the brutal institution of slavery that the Founding Fathers relied upon to build their homes and their wealth.” Visitors can see still standing cabins of the enslaved workers.
- Highland, The Home of James Monroe, fifth president of the United tates (2050 James Monroe Parkway, Charlottesville, VA 22902) Monroe enslaved as many as 250 people in his lifetime. The drop-in program Slavery at Highland is offered during the months of April through October, from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., on Fridays and Saturdays. Slavery at Highland offers a discussion of historic slavery in the United States with special focus on the men, women, and children enslaved at Highland. Visitors can browse images and historic documents while discussing slavery and its legacies with a specially trained museum interpreter.
- Berkeley Plantation – (12 William Henry Harrison – 9th president and ancestral home of his grandson, Benjamin Harrison, the twenty-third president. (602 Harrison Landing, Charles Cty, VA 23030)
- Sherwood Forest – Home of John Tyler 10th president (14501 John Tyler Memorial Hwy, Charles City, VA 23030
- The cabins of the President Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover Rapidan Camp retreat are open for National Park Service ranger tours to explain the Depression-era usage by Hoover, the 31st president of the Unit3ed States. Rapidan Camp is locat4d within the central district of Shenandoah National Park. 3655 U.S. Highway 211 East, Luray, VA
- The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum, Explore the life of our 28th president, Staunton, VA Wilson & Slavery Tour is a special guided tour that focuses on the experiences of the enslaved people who lived and labored in the Presbyterian Manse where Woodrow Wilson was born. During his presidency he allowed discriminatory Jim Crow laws to be put into place in Washington D.C., and allowed the secretary of the treasury and the postmaster general to segregate their departments.
Here in Richmond we are lucky to access these sites and that historians and archeologists are making these histories public for our education and to honor those who lived through those times.
Related post: Richmond Institutions Celebrate Black History Month
More things to do in and around Richmond:
- Richmond’s Museums Highlight History, Art, Science and More
- The Ultimate List of RVA Parks and Playgrounds
- RVA Dog-Friendly Parks
- 12+ Free Things to do in Colonial Williamsburg
- RVA Historic Sites
- Free Art Galleries in RVA
- RVA’s Nearby Ski Resorts
- 50+ Things to Do in Richmond
- Things to Do: RVA
- 50+ Events & Festivals
- Military Discounts
- FREE for Kids (or really cheap)
- Metro Richmond Zoo
- Fairs in RVA and Virginia
- Richmond Museums: Some Admission Free
- Discount Tickets: D.C. & NoVA Shows & Events