"They're Speaking to Us"

Clint Schemmer for The Free Lance-Star captures the moments of the day in this feature celebrating the kick off Memorializing the Enslaved at James Madison's Montpelier. It began with prayer and ceremony at a graveyard in quiet woods...
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James Madison's Montpelier using $5.8 Million Grant to Memorialize Enslaved Ancestors

ORANGE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Descendants from all across central Virginia gathered at James Madison’s Montpelier to celebrate the launch of a new project that has been years in the making.
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Montpelier Museum Honors Enslaved Community at James Madison's Plantation

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Mellon Foundation Awards $5.8 Million to Memorialize Lives of Those Enslaved

The Montpelier Descendants Committee (MDC) and The Montpelier Foundation (TMF) recently announced that the Mellon Foundation has awarded TMF nearly $5.8 million to fund the construction of a memorial to enslaved people at Montpelier.
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Who We Are

The Montpelier Descendants Committee (MDC) is the first independent, descendant-led organization to establish itself as an equal co-steward of a major historic site in America. The MDC is devoted to restoring the narratives of enslaved Americans at plantation sites in Central Virginia, including but not limited to James Madison’s Montpelier, from the margins to the center of historical discourse. The MDC promotes a more accurate understanding of the lives of enslaved people based on broader, richer and more truthful interpretations of American history. Through a series of public programs, events, research, and communications the MDC seeks to demonstrate how the lives of enslaved persons made possible and informed the ideals of universal liberty enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, yet denied to them.

The Montpelier Descendants Committee works with, and strives to enhance its continued engagement with James Madison’s Montpelier. Learn more about its relationship with the Montpelier Foundation here.


On June 16, 2021, The MDC achieved structural parity with The Montpelier Foundation (TMF), establishing itself as an equal co-steward of the historic site. This milestone is the culmination of two decades of contributions by descendants to the Foundation’s research and program development, and a year and a half of intense negotiation in a polarized environment following the murder of George Floyd. 

We’ve developed an innovative model for power-sharing that can be followed by historic institutions, museums, and other public and private entities, from presidential homes to Silicon Valley. The model was inspired by centering the fundamental role of the invisible founders, those who contributed to every facet of our nation’s founding but to whom freedom was denied. The act of mitigating this power imbalance makes possible an unprecedented level of conflict resolution. Structural parity has demonstrated that once you sit at the table as equals, the problems facing an organization can be seen in a new light, revealing pathways towards resolution. 


Descendants Speak

In these articles written by descendants we’ll explore themes and characters throughout history who have influenced the lives of those on our committee and African Americans in general. Some you’ve heard of, some you haven’t. Check back for new articles or read through the archives at your leisure.

The Arc

The Montpelier Descendants Committee is made up of communities that span the Virginia Piedmont. The following map details some of the research we have conducted on our community homes. Scroll down to see more.