Monumental Men With Monumental Flaws

If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. – Abraham Lincoln

The day started early again, but the students quickly revived when bacon made its first breakfast appearance. There is no way our hotel was prepared for the amount of bacon our students consumed. You just don’t think you’ll ever have to make rules like ‘one cereal bowl full of bacon per person.’

After consulting our Apple Watches and Fit-bits, Tanner Dietel gets the award for most steps in a single day at (are you ready?) 26,610! The commitment of the Dietel men to this trip is only surpassed by the pig who provided our bacon.

 

 

 

 

 

Fully fueled, we made our way to the Shirley Plantation, a highlight for many in our group. Shirley was the first English plantation in America designated in 1613 by King James to grow the tobacco that would fund Jamestown. The 700 acre plantation (down from 4000 acres in the 17th century) is fully functional and run by the 11th generation of the original family. It would be hard to find a founding father who had not been hosted at the Shirley Plantation.

So, how in the world did this gorgeous home on the southern side of the Mason-Dixon line survive the Civil War? It just so happens that General Robert E. Lee grew up here and one of his best friends from school was a Union general who prohibited any Union forces from harming it. One small perk of a civil war, I guess. The students toured both the home (which is still occupied) and grounds and even learned to use quill ink pens and small pieces of slate just like school children of that day. It would have been a truly amazing place to grow up…if you were white.

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the English importation of African slaves to America and this plantation would have received the earliest shipments. By the American Revolution, African slaves made up 52% of the population of Virginia. On this tour, our students were reminded that our freedom came at the cost millions of enslaved Africans.

While the Spanish and Portuguese imported primarily male Africans who worked harder, English slave trade imported women as well. When the importation of African slaves was banned in the US in 1808, the atrocities continued as the large families that had developed in Virginia were separated and sold to supply the labor demands of the southern states.

The tour of historical contradictions continued over in Charlottesville as we visited Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home. To say the plantation is pretty would be like saying UVA has a good basketball team. It is the only house in the US designated as a United Nations World Heritage site. Sitting almost 900 feet above the town, we looked as far as the eye can see in almost every direction. The house is an engineering marvel from the clock, compass and day and wind indicator at the front door to the mechanized dumb waiters that silently deliver bottles of wine from the basement up into hidden compartments in the dinning quarters.

The students got to meet our third President in all his brilliance, boldness and blemishes. How is it that the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence could write that all men are created equal, yet own 607 slaves, only seven of whom he would ever free? How is it that he could give his life to form a government for the people, but exclude those in closest proximity to him?

Today encapsulated much of the triumph and the cost of this great experiment. It is a great opportunity for us to consider our own blind spots and the grace of our Lord Jesus who willingly gave up His freedom that we could be set free.

by Jim Davis, parent blogger

The Pleasure and Pain of Plantation Life

We continued our forward progression in time as we visited two different plantations today. Our first stop was along the James River at the Shirley Plantation. The students were amazed to learn that a real family still owns and lives in the exquisite home. They open the first floor to tourists and live mainly on the second floor. Seeing generations of of family photos from the 18th century to present day was fascinating as the students wondered aloud how their lives would have changed over the years as the families grew up in that home.

Even though our students are not at school, today they got to do a bit of plantation life school. Slates, pencils and wool erasers were provided and students practiced some math equations or played tic-tac-toe. I suspect plantation school students brought many of the same challenges and joys to their teachers as our students do today. We also experimented with using our best penmanship with a feather quill and ink. Several of the students were amazed at how long it must have taken for a person to write even just one letter to a friend or family member. But perhaps there is something to be gained by needing to take time in crafting what to say.

We left the James River and headed for the Blue Ridge Mountains and Thomas Jefferson’s home of Monticello. Interestingly enough, the students learned that Jefferson was a cousin to the family who lived at Shirley Plantation, so we were retracing his steps between the two locations.

 

Monticello is a place of great beauty, creativity, ingenuity, and contradiction. The students discussed how a man who penned the words “all men are created equal” could own over one hundred slaves. A man who believed that educated men were capable of self government, yet prevented his own enslaved persons from that same self government. We stood in a slave cabin and gazed at the mansion Jefferson built for himself. The disparity was immense.

Our students saw firsthand that while great men can create beautiful places and craft life changing documents and found incredible systems of government, they are also capable of great blindness, wickedness, and sin. Our guide asked us to ponder the question of whether the issue of slavery negates the goodness of Jefferson’s many other contributions. I would encourage you to probe that question with your students when they return home.

The students were fascinated with all of Jefferson’s many scientific experiments and Mrs. Andrews was certainly grateful to hear our guides remark that science is everywhere. The gardens around Monticello are still being cultivated with descendants of the seeds Jefferson planted or Lewis and Clark brought back from their expedition. The clocks Jefferson designed still toll the correct hour, season, and even day of the week. History is living and our students marveled at the plantation life they experienced today. We saw both the greatness and the baseness of mankind.

And we were reminded in our evening devotion that there is One who Himself experienced greater heights than Monticello and took on greater baseness than slavery. And we are called to have the same mind as Christ Jesus. We are called to consider others better than ourselves, to be humble, to serve others. Jefferson served his country well.  We want to call our students to serve each other well, and in so doing, they, too can change the world.

Tomorrow is our last day of touring historical sites as we visit Yorktown and return to Williamsburg (because one day just isn’t enough).

by Michelle Keller, parent blogger

The Geneva School
The Geneva School
May 22, 2024
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    Date: May 17, 2024 - May 22, 2024
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    Date: May 22, 2024 - May 22, 2024
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May 23, 2024
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May 24, 2024
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    Date: May 24, 2024 - May 24, 2024
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    Date: May 24, 2024 - May 24, 2024
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    Date: May 24, 2024 - May 24, 2024
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    Date: May 24, 2024 - May 24, 2024
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May 22, 2024
  • Senior Trip

    Date: May 17, 2024 - May 22, 2024
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  • 11th Early Dismissal at 11:45

    Date: May 22, 2024 - May 22, 2024
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    Date: May 22, 2024 - May 22, 2024
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  • Chamber Orchestra

    Date: May 22, 2024 - May 22, 2024
    Time: 7:15 am- 8:15 am
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  • 6th Gr - Closing Ceremony

    Date: May 22, 2024 - May 22, 2024
    Time: 8:30 am- 10:00 am
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  • 2nd Gr - Closing Ceremony

    Date: May 22, 2024 - May 22, 2024
    Time: 1:00 pm- 3:00 pm
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May 23, 2024
  • 9th-11th Exam Schedule

    Date: May 23, 2024 - May 23, 2024
    Time: 12:00 am- 11:59 pm
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  • US Early Dismissal 11:45 (9-11) 12:00 (7-8)

    Date: May 23, 2024 - May 23, 2024
    Time: 12:00 am- 11:59 pm
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  • Lower School Fun Day

    Date: May 23, 2024 - May 23, 2024
    Time: 8:15 am- 2:45 pm
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  • K4 - Closing Ceremony

    Date: May 23, 2024 - May 23, 2024
    Time: 8:20 am- 9:15 am
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  • K4 - End-of-Year Lunch

    Date: May 23, 2024 - May 23, 2024
    Time: 10:45 am- 11:15 am
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    Date: May 23, 2024 - May 23, 2024
    Time: 11:40 am- 12:35 pm
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    Date: May 23, 2024 - May 23, 2024
    Time: 7:00 pm- 8:30 pm
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May 24, 2024
  • 1st-6th Gr Parties

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    Time: 12:00 am- 11:59 pm
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  • 7th-10th Exam Schedule

    Date: May 24, 2024 - May 24, 2024
    Time: 12:00 am- 11:59 pm
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  • Early Dismissal - Last Day of School

    Date: May 24, 2024 - May 24, 2024
    Time: 12:00 am- 11:59 pm
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  • US Early Dismissal at 11:45

    Date: May 24, 2024 - May 24, 2024
    Time: 12:00 am- 11:59 pm
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  • Fathers Watch

    Date: May 24, 2024 - May 24, 2024
    Time: 8:00 am- 9:30 am
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    Date: May 24, 2024 - May 24, 2024
    Time: 8:10 am- 12:00 pm
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    Time: 8:10 am- 12:00 pm
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    Time: 8:30 am- 10:00 am
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    Time: 8:40 am- 9:30 am
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    Time: 9:00 am- 10:00 am
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