Monticello Restoration Project Puts An Increased Focus On Jefferson's Slaves

A $35 million project is underway at Monticello to recreate or restore spaces where Thomas Jefferson’s salves worked and lived.

©Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello

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©Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello

Thomas Jefferson wrote the famous words “all men are created equal,” but he also owned more than 600 slaves over the course of his life.

His Virginia plantation called Monticello is being renovated to shed more light on the enslaved people who lived and worked there.

One of the most notable of those slaves was Sally Hemings. Jefferson is widely believed to have fathered her six children. The museum is working to restore a restroom believed to be Hemings’ living quarters.

“Sally Hemings has been hugely important in the American imagination for over 200 years. But mostly she’s seen through Jefferson, and I think we wanted to, for the first time, devote a space that’s just about her,” Christa Dierksheide, a historian for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello, tells NPR’s Ari Shapiro. “That’s seeing her as a person, as a mother, as a sister, as a daughter.”

Archaeologists uncover the original brick floor of what is believed to be Sally Hemings’ living quarters at Monticello.

©Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello

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©Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello

Through the restoration process, archaeologists have discovered what may have been Hemings’ fireplace, the original brick floor and even traces of some shelves.

Dierksheide explains that Hemings’ story was excluded from the history of Monticello until the 1990s because it was viewed as something that could taint Jefferson’s reputation. Dierksheide also says there is much we still don’t know about their nearly 40-year relationship.

“One of the things that visitors are surprised to learn is that she and Jefferson’s wife, Martha, shared the same father, the slave trader John Wayles,” Dierksheide says. “So that actually made Jefferson’s wife and Sally Hemings half-sisters.”

Dierksheide says along with shedding more light on Hemings’ story, the goal of the $35 million project is to restore the landscape of slavery at Monticello.

“What we realized is that even though we were telling the story of slavery on the mountaintop — the area of the house — nobody could actually see anything visible,” Dierksheide says. “There were no remnants of slavery that visitors could encounter. … And we’re recreating or restoring spaces where enslaved families would’ve worked, would’ve lived, and made it the dynamic place that it was.”

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Guitarist Larry Coryell, Godfather Of Fusion, Dies At 73

Guitarist Larry Coryell recorded or appeared on almost 100 albums during a jazz career that spanned more than 50 years.

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Courtesy of 429 Records

Larry Coryell, the jazz guitarist known as the “Godfather of Fusion,” died Sunday night at a hotel in New York City, according to his publicist. He was 73.

Coryell

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High Court To Hear Case Of Mexican Boy Killed In Cross-Border Shooting

Shootings by Customs and Border Patrol agents along the U.S.-Mexico border have been the subject of investigations in the past, but on Tuesday the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case asking whether families have any right to sue when a shooting occurred on Mexican soil.

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In June 2010, 15-year-old Sergio Hernandez and his friends were playing chicken at the U.S.-Mexico border, daring each other to run up and touch the tall border fence separating Juarez, Mexico, from El Paso, Texas.

At some point during their game, U.S. border patrol agent Jesus Mesa arrived on a bicycle. He detained one of the kids on the U.S. side while the others ran away. Hernandez hid behind a pillar beneath a bridge on the Mexican side of the border. A cellphone video shows the boy peeking out from behind the column, before Mesa shoots and kills him.

NPR’s Nina Totenberg reports that Mesa claims he was being surrounded by the boys, and that they were throwing rocks at him. But as the Supreme Court hears oral arguments Tuesday, the question in this case actually doesn’t come down to whether Mesa acted in self-defense.

The Justice Department decided against prosecuting Mesa because the department said it did not have jurisdiction on the Mexico side of the border. Mexico charged the agent with murder, but the U.S. refused to extradite him, so the prosecution could not move forward.

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The Hernandez family sued Mesa for damages, saying that the border agent violated their son’s rights — and this is the question that the Supreme Court faces: Can foreigners sue for damages under the U.S. Constitution?

The government said in its court filing that the right to sue “should not be extended to aliens injured abroad.” Mesa’s lawyer says a ruling in favor of the Hernandez family would mean foreigners could also sue over drone attacks.

In an interview with Steve Inskeep in 2014, the head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Gil Kerlikowske acknowledged that the agency had a problem with transparency around the use of force. But he also said that he found the decision by an appellate court that the Hernandez family could sue for damages “chilling.”

When asked if he thought that federal law applied when agents shot across the border, Kerlikowske said it would depend on the circumstances — but that border patrol rules for using force always applied.

“Frankly, we need to be better at admitting when we’re wrong or where we’ve made a mistake,” Kerlikowske told Inskeep. “There is a certain sense in law enforcement that if we just keep our heads down, all of this will go away — meaning media scrutiny and nongovernmental organizations. That doesn’t happen.”

A 2013 report commissioned by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and written by an outside group had faulted the agency for insufficiently investigating the 67 shootings that took place from 2010 to 2012 and questioned the use of force in some of those cases. Since March of 2014 the CBP says there has been a decline in the number of use of force incidents.

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President Trump Names Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster New National Security Adviser

President Donald Trump (right) shakes hands with Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday. Trump called McMaster “a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience” as he announced that he would replace Mike Flynn as national security adviser.

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Susan Walsh/AP

Updated at 4:35 pm E.T.

President Trump has announced that Army Lt. General H.R. McMaster will be his new national security adviser. McMaster will replace retired Army Lt. General Mike Flynn, who was forced to resign after revelations that he had misled top White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

The president made the announcement in a brief appearance before reporters at Mar-a-Lago, his resort estate in Florida on Monday. He spent part of the weekend interviewing generals after his first choice — retired vice admiral and former Navy SEAL Robert S. Harward — turned down the job.

H.R. McMaster, 54, is a three star Army General known for being a military intellectual. A West Point graduate who earned a doctorate in history from the University of North Carolina, he wrote his dissertation based on newly declassified documents from the Vietnam War. The dissertation became a 1997 book — Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam.

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As NPR’s Tamara Keith said on All Things Considered, “In U.S. military circles that book is a classic, and it’s also a cautionary tale.” Keith points out that it is essentially a book about generals who deferred to politicians and regretted it. For that reason, McMaster isn’t thought to be one to back down if challenged by anyone in the White House. “He’s his own man and will tell you exactly what he thinks,” Keith said.

In a New Yorkerarticle about the Iraq War in 2006, George Packer wrote that McMaster pushed for a “more imaginative and coherent response to an insurgency that he believed was made up of highly decentralized groups with different agendas making short-term alliances of convenience.”

McMaster is credited with demonstrating how a different strategy could work to defeat insurgents in Iraq, and is known for having been critical of the George W. Bush administration’s handling of the war.

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Nearing 93, Robert Mugabe Shows No Sign Of Stepping Down

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, who turns 93 on Tuesday, speaks at his party’s annual conference in December, where he was endorsed as a candidate for the 2018 election. His wife said last week that even if he dies before the election, he should run “as a corpse.”

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President Robert Mugabe turns 93 on Tuesday, making him the oldest president in Africa — and the world. He’s the only leader most Zimbabweans have ever known, spending nearly 37 years at the helm since independence from Britain and the end of white minority rule in Rhodesia in April 1980.

Mugabe is blamed by his critics, including the United States, for mismanaging the economy and making a once-prosperous southern African country poor. But his supporters in and out of Zimbabwe see him as an African nationalist who championed the cause of the continent and helped fight apartheid in neighboring South Africa as one of the leaders of the frontline states.

The nonagenarian has been endorsed by his governing Zanu-PF party as its candidate for elections next year, when he’ll be 94. Last Friday, his wife Grace, who’s 51, told thousands of cheering supporters at a political rally in eastern Zimbabwe that even if her husband dies before the vote, he should still run and would win.

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“If God decides to take him,” the first lady said in the local Shona language, “then we would rather field him as a corpse.”

Grace Mugabe also took a swipe at old-timers in the party who fought Zimbabwe’s guerrilla war of independence, whom she accuses of trying to wrest power from her husband.

“Anyone who was with Mugabe in 1980 has no right to tell him he is old. If you want Mugabe to go, then you leave together,” she said. “You also have to leave. Then we take over, because we were not there in 1980,” she added, pointing to herself.

That has set tongues wagging again that Grace Mugabe is very much part of the succession battle raging within Zanu-PF — and that she’s positioning herself politically within the party to try to take over from her husband.

That’s highly unlikely, says political commentator Pedzisai Ruhanya of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute. He tells NPR he believes the armed forces will decide who takes over from Mugabe, when the time comes. The military, which has its own wing of the party, will designate Mugabe’s successor and is likely to choose a candidate with credentials from the liberation struggle, Ruhanya says.

“The president will not be removed from power by anybody,” he says. “I think the president will die in office and when the president dies in office, the faction in [Zanu-PF] that has the control of the military will take over the affairs of the state.”

Still, speculation about the succession is a burning issue in Zimbabwe. Mugabe, a political survivor who has always out-foxed any potential rivals, has accused fellow governing party members of plotting his ouster and told them at a December party congress to rein in what he called their “unbridled ambition.”

He grumbled that “some are busy plotting succession in the party. They say: ‘When will this old man die? He is refusing to die.’ “

In excerpts of Mugabe’s traditional annual birthday interview, published Sunday, Mugabe was quoted as saying he wasn’t ready to step aside. He has declared in the past that he would like to live until he’s 100 and rule for life.

MOYO FUMES OVER MNANGAGWA’S I’M THE BOSS CUP https://t.co/0PfCf3nx6Mpic.twitter.com/jpBFjEfmzO

— ZiMetro (@Zimetro) January 3, 2017

He says he’s not grooming anyone to replace him. “A successor is groomed by the people. The majority of the people feel that there is no replacement; a successor who to them is acceptable, as acceptable as I am,” Mugabe is quoted as saying in the state-run Sunday Mail.

While Mugabe was on his annual extended holiday in December and January, a tussle ballooned on social media — an indication of the hype, buzz and concern surrounding the succession issue. Festive season photos circulating showed Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, an independence war veteran who served as acting president during Mugabe’s absence, posing with a huge mug bearing the message, “I’m the boss.”

Another minister, Jonathan Moyo, decried what he called a “power-grab narrative” by Mnangagwa and tweeted, “One Boss at a time, please.”

Supa Mandiwanzira, a government minister, Zanu-PF central committee member and Mugabe supporter, says the president is their leader — and that’s that.

“We have no problem with him. President Mugabe says, ‘I’m still here, so my position is not up for grabs. I’ve a mandate, allow me to serve my term, if you’re also interested — number one. Number two — don’t jostle for power,’ ” Mandiwanzira says. “We have more important things to do, to address the concerns of the people, to deliver on the expectations of voters. Those are things we should focus on: addressing our economic challenges.”

But Ruhanya, the political analyst, emphasizes that Mugabe is an aging president with health problems and Zimbabweans can’t help but ponder a future without him.

“Given the president’s age,any reasonable person would see that, at 92, turning 93, the future of the president is in the cemetery. So it is at that age, and his loss of grip — not by anyone’s willing, but by the will of God — a time when they fizzle out, when they naturally can leave this world.”

Others believe Mugabe’s wife’s assessment might be closer to the mark. The first lady has said that if necessary, “I will push President Mugabe in a wheelbarrow or a wheelchair to bring him to work.”

Even as he grapples with the factions within his party, Mugabe has many other problems. For years, Zimbabwe has been an international pariah because of his human rights record and allegations of state-sponsored violence against his opponents. The U.S. and other powers slapped targeted sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle, sanctions the Zimbabwean government repeatedly blames for the terrible state of the economy.

Pro-democracy campaigners took to the streets last year, inspired by an anti-Mugabe hashtag campaign called #ThisFlag and demanding “Mugabe must go.” Among his failures, said the demonstrators, were his mishandling of the economy, a dire shortage of U.S. dollars, the main currency used in Zimbabwe, and the $800,000 reportedly spent on his lavish 92nd birthday celebrations, when giant cakes were served in a drought-stricken area suffering food shortages.

A year on, Mugabe supporters are poised to celebrate his 93rd birthday with another official party planned for thousands of people on Saturday in Matabeleland in the south.

Matabeleland was the scene of the 1983 Gukurahundi massacres of the Ndebele people, shortly after independence, when Mugabe’s North Korean-trained troops cracked down on alleged dissidence from a minority tribe. An estimated 20,000 people were killed or starved to death in the campaign.

Mugabe is still haunted by the Gukurahundi legacy, an economy in free-fall and his controversial land reform policy that led to often-violent invasions of mostly commercial white-owned farms and saw white farmers and many black farm workers driven off their land. The economy collapsed and Zimbabwe, once the breadbasket of southern Africa, had to import food.

Critics say Mugabe’s plan to deliver land and farms to black people fell far short of expectations and only members of Zimbabwe’s elite have truly benefited.

But Mandiwanzira, the Zanu-PF central committee member and government minister, says Mugabe’s long-term legacy belies the common narrative.

“People are aware of the big prize that we have gotten from President Mugabe and the Zanu-PF leadership, which is independence, economic empowerment, independence of the brain — liberate yourselves mentally — and the right to own your own resources in your own country,” Mandiwanzira tells NPR. “All these benefits cannot be wiped away because there’s no cooking oil in the home at the moment. No, I think Zimbabweans are smarter than that, to know these things.”

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Rio's Carnival Is A Glitter-Filled Euphoria, Even If Brazil's Government Is Not

The carnival in Rio de Janeiro hasn’t even officially opened, but this weekend several hundred thousand people were already out parading. “Blocos” are locally-organised street parties held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil that precede the Carnival.

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Philip Reeves/NPR

Rio de Janeiro’s carnival is like one of those lavish parties where all the guests show up early and start guzzling away while you’re still upstairs, trimming your eyebrows.

Is there another city on earth that tosses aside its troubles with such gusto, and then dives into the dressing-up box with all the wild-eyed relish of The Cat in the Hat?

The carnival hasn’t even officially opened, but this weekend several hundred thousand people were already out parading and partying beneath a steaming tropical sun.

Many cats in many hats appeared on the streets, against a skyline so weirdly wobbly that it could have come from the pen of Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel himself.

People enjoy an informal parade before carnival in Rio’s Zona Central.

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Beneath garlands, glitter and grins, they twirled away the weekend as if Monday would never come and the ice-cold Brazilian beer — served from brightly-decorated trucks or grubby cold-boxes on bicycles — would never stop flowing.

Amid this euphoria, there is an echo of reality. Political satire and protest is sewn into the multicolored fabric of Rio’s annual carnival season. To see that, you only have to look at some of the costumes.

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Former commodities tycoon Eike Batista, once Brazil’s richest man, was recently locked up in prison awaiting trial for bribery. Yet I saw him lining up for the porta-potties behind Napoleon, two Roman emperors and a squirrel carrying a trombone.

Word has it that in Rio this year there are many sightings of Donald Trump. I didn’t personally see the U.S. president’s peroxide-blond locks bobbing above the dancing crowds, but I met his Mexican Wall — rendered, in symbolic protest, as cardboard boxes around the waists of Brazilian journalists Fernando and Luciana Miragaya.

Brazilian journalists Luciana (left) and Fernando Miragaya are dressed as President Trump’s Mexican Wall.

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As a newcomer watching this craziness for the first time, you might find yourself asking — how all do these people do it, in this insane heat? How do so many manage to party so joyously in temperatures so sweltering that you can lose a gallon of sweat in an hour?

Serious carnival performers — the ones you see in 7-inch heels and glorious costumes on TV — say they prepare with strict diets, intensive training and by glugging down plenty of water beforehand.

Law student Ana Carolina Carvalho is preparing to perform in the official samba parade as a giant, silver, feathered mermaid. That’s why she’s been working out for two hours a day, five days a week, at the Bodytech Fitness Center close to Copacabana beach.

Carvalho thinks this will pay off, once the fun starts.

“When you listen to the music, and your body starts shaking, and then you forget everything, and everything is good, and everything is alright, and excellent” she says.

Fatima Carvalho, 55, has danced every year for 27 years with the Portela samba school in north Rio. She says she prepares by soaking her feet in rock salt, drinking water and eating fruit.

Serious carnival performers – the ones you see in seven-inch heels and glorious costumes on TV – say they prepare with strict diets, intensive training and by glugging down plenty of water beforehand.

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That’s no insurance against trouble when several million people are on the loose.

She hasn’t forgotten the occasion, some years back, when she was hit in the head by a flying beer can. It knocked her out cold. Yet it did not dent her enthusiasm.

“I don’t like parties, or birthdays, or Christmas. But I adore my carnival,”says Fatima.

Which prompts my second big question. Why?

I mean — seriously — why does a country, bedevilled by recession, corruption, red tape, gangs, drugs and guns — want to enjoy itself with such flamboyant abandon instead of wallowing in self-pity like the rest of us?

Rio’s carnival doesn’t officially open until the end of the coming week, when the city’s fabulous samba schools will compete against each other for several days in what’s billed as the “world’s greatest spectacle.”

When this party really starts, I intend to get an answer.

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In 'Get Out,' Jordan Peele Tackles The 'Human Horror' Of Racial Fear

Writer/director/producer Jordan Peele on the set of Universal Pictures’ Get Out.

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If you are a fan of sketch comedy, then you’d probably know the name Jordan Peele. He, along with Keegan Michael Key wrote and performed in the acclaimed Comedy Central sketch series Key & Peele. The show, which ran for five seasons, earned a Peabody Award and two Primetime Emmys for its hilarious and deeply pointed take on race and culture.

A popular feature among the sketches on Key & Peele was the way it sometimes mixed humor and horror For example, the zombies who refused to eat black people.

Now Peele has taken that strategy and used it in his directorial debut of a horror film called Get Out. The movie, which he also wrote and produced, is already being called a bombshell social critique, fearless and a must-see, after its first showing at the Sundance Film Festival.

In Get Out, Peele unabashedly addresses the politics of racism as he chronicles the story of an African-American man who’s meeting his white girlfriend’s parents for the first time but she’s not told them he’s black.

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NPR’s Michel Martin spoke with Peele ahead of the movie hitting theatres on Friday Feb. 24 and he explained the motivation behind tackling this particular issue.

Here are interview highlights


On how he got the idea for the film

This is the only woke horror movie of all time, save for Night of the Living Dead. … I felt like race has not been dealt with in you know, my favorite genre which is horror. Every other human horror has its sort of classic horror movie to go along with it. So I kind of wanted to fill the gap in that piece of the genre of conversation.

On if the opening scene was meant to bring echoes of Trayvon Martin

Obviously the tone of this movie was a big question mark and we had to get it right because it is dealing with subject matter. It hits home to a lot of people. But I wanted to represent the fact that what many people may not understand is the fear that a black man has walking in a white suburb at night is real. And I wanted to put the audience in that position so they could see it and feel it.

On the scene about the black character Chris meeting his white girlfriend Rose’s family for the first time

I took a lot of cues from Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. The first act of the film kind of resembles that movie. And one of the reasons that movie I think was so successful and important was because you know, aside from being a racial commentary, anybody can relate to the fear of meeting your potential future in-laws for the first time. It’s a very scary thing and you want to present yourself right.

But when you add race to that equation there is this fear if they don’t know that I’m black for example, I don’t want to see them realize, “Oh, this is not what I had expected.” So in this movie, the parents are very welcoming. They don’t skip a beat. They don’t care about the color of his skin, which to me was like almost creepier because of what we know this world to be.

On the film addressing the appropriation of black culture by some white people

I think you’re really talking about the party sequence. Chris arrives at this party, which is populated with Rose’s grandfather’s friends — all of whom are white. Everybody wants to connect with him. Everybody wants to say, “Hey, you know, I know Tiger Woods,” or feel his muscles. It’s all a form of the very true cliché of, “Can I touch your hair?”

On if any of the scenes in the movie comes from his own life experience

My wife Chelsea Peretti is you know, of course, white and I did write this movie before I met her. Without taking it that literal, this is about the African-American experience. It’s about the feelings of being an outsider, of being the other that we confront. And also, the presumptions that I make as a black man about others.

On what it was like meeting his wife’s parents for the first time

Well they’re pretty they’re pretty cultured people. … My in-laws are amazing people, very intelligent, very warm, very empathetic. I think one of the big problems with how we talk about race though is us versus them. They’re racist. I’m not. This movie is not about this idea that white people are racist and no one else is or that white people are villains. We all have issues to deal with in regards to race internally.

Part of being a human being unfortunately, is the urge to prejudge people. So I think the only way we can really approach this is to say look this is a human trait and it’s how we as individuals choose to deal with our own internal racism and face it that’s our only way out.

From left to right: Missy (Catherine Keener), Dean (Bradley Whitford), Rose (Allison Williams), Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) in Universal Pictures’ Get Out, a speculative thriller written, produced and directed by Jordan Peele.

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