Wednesday, July 4, 2018

July 2018

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more
Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson

Volume XV, Number 7                                                                      July 1, 2018

"The study of the past is a constantly evolving, never-ending journey of discovery." - Eric Foner

CREATED EQUAL:  The headlines tell the story:
  • “Monticello is Done Avoiding Jefferson’s Relationship with Sally Hemings”—New York Times
  • “Sally Hemings Gets Her Recognition at Monticello”—Washington Post
  •  “Sally Hemings Takes Center Stage”—New York Times op ed. by Annette Gordon-Reed

The news that those headlines heralded was the June 16 ceremony marking the opening of a new exhibition at Monticello devoted to the life of Sally Hemings and other members of her family.
It is located in a room along the south wing of the house that archeologists and historians believe was once inhabited by Hemings. That room, formerly a public bathroom, has been restored to what it most likely looked like when Sally Hemings was alive.

“Symbolically and emotionally, the restoration of the Hemings room is the heart of the new interpretation of Monticello,” Washington Post architecture critic Philip Kennicott wrote, “and it makes tangible a relationship that has been controversial since rumors of ‘Dusky Sally’ became part of the American political landscape in the early 19th century.”

Visitors to Monticello “will for the first time see Sally Hemings depicted as a central figure in life on the mountain,” Gordon-Reed, the author of The Hemingses of Monticello who spoke at the ceremonies, wrote. “This is a remarkable turn of events. For centuries, historians denied Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings. This exhibit has been a long time coming, but better late than never.”

Some three hundred descendants of enslaved people who labored at Monticello were among the crowd that day, June 16, 2018—a day “that will go down go down in Monticello’s history,” as Leslie Bowman, the Thomas Jefferson’s Foundation’s President, put it in her opening remarks.

There’s an excellent on-line version of the Sally Hemings exhibit at

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation has videos of the entire June 16 opening ceremonies—including remarks by Bowman, Gordon-Reed, and Monticello benefactor David Rubenstein—on its website at

R12 AT THE LEVY CENTER: That’s U.S. Naval Academy speak for the position held by Lt. Steven Ballaban, who in January was named the 12th rabbi assigned to the Academy. Rabbi Ballaban holds a BA in English Literature from Vassar, along with an MA in Hebrew Letters, and an MA and a PhD in Philosophy from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. He received his rabbinical ordination in 1986, after which he went on active duty in the Navy. He later served in the Navy Reserve and in 2014 was commissioned as a chaplain. He previously served as Staff Chaplain at the Naval Air Facility in Atsugi in Japan.

How does this relate to Saving Monticello? Rabbi Ballaban, as the Naval Academy’s rabbi, is the spiritual leader of the Commodore Uriah P. Levy Center and the Esther and William Miller Jewish Chapel (in photo below). The Center and Chapel were dedicated in September of 2005 adjacent to Bancroft Hall, the gigantic building where all 4,000 Midshipmen live and eat their meals.

The architect included a dome on the entrance in honor of Uriah Levy’s stewardship of Monticello, which he owned from 1834 to his death in 1862, and which he repaired, restored, and preserved.

EVENTS: Here’s a rundown on my July speaking events. For info on my latest book, Ballad of the Green Beret, please go to
·         Tuesday, July 3 – Talk on Ballad of the Green Beret and book signing at The Glebe retirement community, Daleville, Virginia

·         Thursday, July 26 – Talk on Ballad and book signing at Vietnam Veterans of America’s National Leadership & Education Conference, Palm Springs, California

If you’d like to arrange an event for Saving Monticello—or for any of my other books, including Ballad of the Green Beret—please email me at  For details on other upcoming events, go to

GIFT IDEAS:  Want a personally autographed, brand-new paperback copy of Saving Monticello? Please e-mail me at  I also have a few as-new, unopened hardcover copies.

Or go to to order copies through my local bookstore, Second Chapter Books in Middleburg, Virginia. We also have copies of Desperate Engagement, Flag, and What So Proudly We Hailed, and Ballad of the Green Beret.