As plantations talk more honestly about slavery, some visitors push back

Visitor reviews of Monticello on travel site TripAdvisor are overwhelmingly positive. But the negative comments are increasingly likely to blast the amount of time devoted to slavery, decrying “political correctness” and the bashing of a giant of American history. Two years ago, only a couple of the poor reviews mentioned slavery. This year, almost all of them do.

“For someone like myself, going to Monticello is like an Elvis fan going to Graceland,” one review from July reads. “Then to have the tour guide essentially make constant reference to what a bad person he really was just ruined it for me.”

The Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society is a staunch opponent of Monticello’s decision to tell visitors Jefferson fathered children with Sally Hemings, after years of fierce disagreement over the strength of the evidence. John Works, a Jefferson descendant and president of the society, believes Monticello has overemphasized slavery at the expense of Jefferson’s accomplishments.

“There’s a limit to the appeal, I think, of the slavery message,” he said.