A Founding Father and principal author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson was a “consistent opponent of slavery” throughout his lifetime– at least, that is according to some historians. But last year, a book on Jefferson attempted to turn that argument upside down by saying the Virginia-born plantation owner was actually a proponent of slavery.
Challenging the longstanding beliefs about the individuals who shaped America is a controversial but sometimes necessary practice in order to help us understand their motivations and thoughts and to put them into historical context. In the following clip from the Commonwealth Club, author Jon Meacham discusses how Thomas Jefferson fought to change slavery in the United States early in his political career. But following a series of defeats on the issue, he failed to take it up again.
In this next clip from the Chautauqua Institution, Jim Lehrer questions an actor playing Thomas Jefferson on being a father to children from slaves at Montecello.