On Monday, Bow Tie Tours will begin offering its tour about the Founders and their connection to that most pernicious of practices, slavery.
When I started Bow Tie Tours, I knew that I wanted to offer a slavery tour for the simple reason that one is needed. I had gone to the slavery tours at Mount Vernon and Monticello, and had been both disgusted and exasperated as the guides described slavery as a not bad job or way of life – at least when it came to the shining examples of these heroic masters. Slaves, I was told, slept in if they were tired. They got days off if sick. They often got to sell the produce being grown on the plantation and keep the proceeds. They married who they wanted and their masters tried very hard not to separate them from their families. They had nice clothes.
What I found at these places were tours that were both defensive and somewhat fantastical. But I came to understand that a place like Monticello sees Jefferson as their cash cow; he is more of a commodity than a historical figure, and as such must be defended against all criticism. They can not allow any inconvenient truths get in the way of making the money that they make.
The stories of the Founders and slavery is not a simple one. It is not my job to defend the Founders or try to rationalize their actions; nor is it my job to tear them down and desecrate their memories. Instead, it is time to have a realistic examination of these men and women that allows for the fact that they were people and not demigods, and that on more than one occasion they failed to do what even they themselves believed what was the right thing.
The story, then, of the Founders and slavery is less one of heroism versus evil, then it is of men who faced serious economic and pragmatic difficulties over doing the right thing.
Join us at bowtietours.com to purchase a ticket for our Slavery Tour, and for more information.