Editorial: Plantation mentality now reigns at the Montpelier Foundation | Editorial

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Forty candidates. This is the number of people that the committee of descendants of Montpelier proposed not so long ago as potential members of the board of directors of the Montpelier Foundation. Not one was acceptable to the white majority on the board, Descendants Committee Chairman James French told the Daily Progress.

With the board’s veto, a grand experiment in power-sharing between the board and the descendants of slaves who worked James Madison’s sprawling estate in Orange County exploded into anger and recrimination. . While foundation president Roy Young fired Montpelier’s chief curator and chief archaeologist for speaking out in favor of equal representation between descendants and other board members, one thing is Claire :

A modern plantation mentality now reigns in Montpellier. People of color have been put in their place. The board now has the final say on who can become a member, despite its promise to share board nominations equally with the descendants committee. The board calls this new endorsement policy an ‘expansion’ of Montpellier’s offspring pool. Only the recent rejection of the 40 nominees for the Board of Directors of the Descendants Committee makes their part of the pool quite superficial. The sacking of staff sympathetic to the descendants completes the takeover. The narrative now rests on a white overseer.

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It should be an interesting fundraising season for Montpelier board chairman Gene Hickok and Young. Maybe they can find a benefactor among the deep-pocketed folks who fund attacks on the teaching of race in public schools.

In a statement on Wednesday, Hickok accused the Descendants Committee of working “tirelessly” to create a toxic environment in Montpellier. Hickok said the layoffs were due to “repeated and disruptive violations of our employment policies. Individuals who played a role in these developments have either been terminated or disciplined.

Many important sources of support for Montpellier are appalled. This includes the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which owns Montpellier and is under contract with the Montpelier Foundation to manage it. The National Trust had previously criticized the board for changing its power-sharing pledge to ensure that only board-approved descendants sit on the board. This effectively neutralized the Descendants Committee.

Prior to that, the trust had hoped that University of Virginia mediators could resolve disputes between the board of trustees and the descendants committee that had been simmering for months. The mediators pulled out soon after the council appointed its own descendant member who objected to the existence of the descendants committee, according to French.

The staff purge may have been the final blow for the National Trust. He released a statement on Monday that represented a vote of no confidence in the foundation’s leadership.

“The National Trust has been working to bring about a resolution to the very public dispute between the Foundation and the Montpelier Descendants Committee,” the statement said. “But these and other recent Foundation actions have us wondering if a resolution is possible under the Foundation’s current leadership.”

Hickok took over in 2020. He has a Ph.D. UVa. He taught political science in universities. Hickok also has research affiliations with two conservative think tanks, the Hoover Institute and the Heritage Foundation. A Republican, he served as US Undersecretary for Education under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005. He specialized in school accountability. But in 2007, the Inspector General of the Department of Education announced that Hickok had paid a fine of “$50,000 for continuing to hold bank stock he was required to sell under conflict rules. ‘interests’ under the Bush administration.

Young also came in 2020. He has “served as a business consultant for the Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library in Delaware and currently co-chairs the American Alliance of Museums’ Historic House and Sites Network,” according to Montpelier’s website.

Montpelier was rebuilt with a $10 million grant from Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein, who also helped lead the Mountaintop Project to restore Monticello, in 2014. Rubenstein earmarked some of the money to restore the slave quarters and continue archaeological explorations of slave culture. “Rubenstein’s Gift,” says the plantation’s website, “has allowed Montpellier to offer visitors a fuller version of the story of American freedom.”

This story is going to be much harder to tell now that Montpellier have fired so many storytellers.

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