Summer Jefferson Symposium 2020

Date & Time

June 25 - 28, 2020


University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA

Register Now


June 25 – 28, 2020 (optional early arrival on June 24)

Join UVA’s Lifetime Learning for an extended weekend of enlightenment, exploration, and engagement in Charlottesville, VA.

Jefferson, Land, and Independence

Thomas Jefferson is often referred to as the “apostle of liberty.” His Declaration of Independence has been used as a model by people in over 100 nations asserting self-determination and by groups as diverse as the women of the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention to the Black Panthers of the 1960s. The Declaration proclaimed soaring notions of individual liberty, equality, and independence for a new nation. Yet, it is easy to forget, or miss, that central to Jefferson’s vision of independence and liberty was land, or the ownership of land – landedness, both for the individual and the nation. This symposium will begin with the Declaration of Independence and identify the role of land in Jefferson’s vision. We will then focus on the role of independent, land-owning farmers—including African-American farmers—before turning to consider land, especially Western land, in Jefferson’s “empire of liberty.”

This program has something for everyone: learning opportunities, tours, exclusive and off-the-beaten-path visits, and much more.

Participants will have the opportunity to:

  • Arrive early to tour the Grounds, relax, and enjoy the University of Virginia—early arrival is optional
  • Live on the historic Lawn or Brown College at Monroe Hill
  • Learn about the new Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at UVA
  • Take an optional excursion to Poplar Forest, Jefferson’s retreat home (limited capacity —first-come basis)
  • Spend a day at Morven Farm, the property Jefferson purchased for his “adopted son,” Colonel William Short
  • Share dinner with peer participants on an enchanted mountaintop, Montalto, once owned by Jefferson
  • Enjoy daily morning meals in Pavilion VII, the Colonnade Club—the University’s first building
  • Dine in the historic Rotunda, the first library at the University of Virginia
  • Enjoy lectures and informal conversations with scholars and fellow participants

Don’t miss this biennial learning experience at Summer Jefferson Symposium 2020!


John Ragosta, PhD, JD

Historian at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello and Lecturer at UVA School of Law

John Ragosta, PhD, JD is a historian at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello and Lecturer at UVA School of Law. He has taught law and history at the University of Virginia, George Washington University, and Oberlin, Hamilton, and Randolph Colleges. He has held fellowships at the Jack Miller Center at Colonial Williamsburg and at Monticello and is currently a fellow at Virginia Humanities.

Ragosta authored Religious Freedom: Jefferson’s Legacy, America’s Creed (University of Virginia Press, 2013) and Wellspring of Liberty: How Virginia’s Religious Dissenters Helped to Win the American Revolution & Secured Religious Liberty (Oxford University Press, 2010). His most recent book, Patrick Henry: Proclaiming a Revolution, was released by Routledge Press in 2016. Ragosta is a co-editor on the recently released The Founding of Thomas Jefferson’s University (University of Virginia, 2019). He has published peer-reviewed articles in historic, legal, and scientific journals and is a frequent commentator on topics of public interest.

Before returning to academia, Ragosta was an international trade and litigation partner at Dewey Ballantine LLP. He holds both a PhD and a JD from the University of Virginia and a BS (physics-chemistry, philosophy) from Grove City College.

Ragosta is also a beekeeper.

Justene Hill Edwards

Professor, Arts & Sciences, Corcoran Department of History

Justene Hill Edwards is a scholar of African-American history, specializing in the history of slavery in the United States. She received her doctorate in history from Princeton University in 2015. She also holds an MA in African New World studies from Florida International University and a BA in Spanish from Swarthmore College. Hill Edwards was a Consortium Fellow at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and a Quin Morton Teaching Fellow in Princeton University’s Writing Center. Her dissertation, “‘Felonious Transactions: The Legal Culture and Business Practices of Slave Economies in South Carolina, 1787-1860,” was a finalist for the C. Vann Woodward Prize from the South Historical Association, a finalist for the SHEAR Dissertation Prize from the Society for Historians on the Early American Republic, and a finalist for the Herman E. Krooss Dissertation Prize from the Business History Conference. Her scholarship has been supported by the Program in American Studies at Princeton University, the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University, the Program in International and Regional Studies at Princeton University, and the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Virginia.

Hill Edwards is finishing her first book, titled Black Markets: The Slaves’ Economy and Capitalist Enterprise in South Carolina (under contract with Columbia University Press, in the Columbia Series in the History of U.S. Capitalism). Black Markets is an innovative work that explores an overlooked aspect of the rise of American capitalism: slaves’ personal economic activities, or the slaves’ economy. The first book to center the slaves’ economy in the rapid growth of capitalist enterprise in the 18th and 19th century American South, Black Markets reveals the detrimental influence of capitalist innovation on slaves’ economic pursuits in South Carolina, the most pro-slavery state in America on the eve of the Civil War. Using a variety of archival records, Black Markets argues that though enslaved people acquired a few material goods and a degree of purchasing power from their own economic activities, the slaves’ economy ultimately supported South Carolina’s slave owners who profited from their investments in slavery. In the end, it shows that for South Carolina’s slaveholding elite, investments in capitalist enterprise equaled freedom. But for enslaved people, capitalism did not equal freedom. Instead, it meant a continuation of the violent and exploitative regime that shaped their lives. Black Markets shows that the vestiges of race-based economic inequality are not in the late-nineteenth or twentieth centuries but in the period of legal slavery.

Lily Fox-Bruguiere

Garden and Outreach Coordinator, Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants at Monticello

Lily Fox-Bruguiere is the Garden and Outreach Coordinator for the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants at Monticello and has worked professionally as a gardener for eighteen years, including twelve years at Monticello. A University of Virginia graduate with an MA in architectural and landscape history, Fox-Bruguiere wrote her master’s thesis on Jefferson’s plans for a botanical garden at the University of Virginia.

After Jefferson’s death, his plans to construct the botanical garden never reached completion and were abandoned. Through her research, Fox-Bruguiere worked to fill the gap in our knowledge of Jefferson’s Academical Village and argued that Jefferson intended the botanical garden to be a significant and integral part of his University.

Fox-Bruguiere’s research on Jefferson’s plans for a botanical garden and early American gardens and botanical gardens, as well as their European precedents, improved knowledge of landscape history. Fox-Bruguiere focused on landscape history with a personal interest in botanical gardens that began during a horticultural internship at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Years later, she discovered references to a botanical garden while researching Jefferson’s years in France.

Fox-Bruguiere’s work at Monticello is a direct result of her interest and research in Jefferson’s plans for plants and botanical gardens.

Robert M.S. McDonald

Professor of History, United States Military Academy

Robert McDonald is a professor of History at the United States Military Academy where he has taught since 1998. He earned a BA at the University of Virginia, an MSt at Oxford University, and an MA and PhD at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A specialist on Thomas Jefferson and the early American republic, he is the author of Confounding Father: Thomas Jefferson’s Image in His Own Time (2016) and editor of Thomas Jefferson’s Military Academy: Founding West Point (2004), Light & Liberty: Thomas Jefferson and the Power of Knowledge (2012), Sons of the Father: George Washington and His Protégés (2013), and Thomas Jefferson’s Lives: Biographers and the Battle for History (2019).

Andrew O’Shaughnessy

Professor of History, University of Virginia; Vice President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and Saunders Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello

Andrew O’Shaughnessy is Professor of History at the University of Virginia, Vice President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and Saunders Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello. A dual citizen of Britain and the United States, he received his BA, MA and DPhil. from Oriel College, Oxford University.

 O’Shaughnessy’s most recent book, The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), received eight national awards including the New York Historical Society American History Book Prize, the George Washington Book Prize, The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution Excellence in American History Book Award, and The Society of Military History Book Prize.

 O’Shaughnessy is also the author of An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), which was the alternate designate selection of the History Book Club. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, he is an editor of the Jeffersonian America series published by the University of Virginia Press, The Journal of American History and the Journal of the Early Republic. O’Shaughnessy has been faculty leader twice for UVA at Oxford Seminar.

Kirt von Daacke

Associate Professor and Assistant Dean, Arts & Sciences, History

Kirt von Daacke’s research centers upon social constructions of race, community social hierarchies, and identity in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America. He is especially fascinated with studying the complex interplay of race and culture in the antebellum South. His first book, Freedom Has a Face: Race, Identity, and Community in Jefferson’s Albemarle, 1780-1865, came out with the University of Virginia Press in 2012. He is currently working on “Jefferson’s University: The Early Life Project,” a major digital humanities project that he co-founded with art history professor Maurie McInnis. The project will create a comprehensive digital archive of early University records, will track persons, places, and events over time in the Academical Village, and ultimately, include a 3-D recreation of central Grounds before the Civil War. Additionally, he’s very excited to be co-chairing the UVA President’s Commission on Slavery and the University. Those scholarly interests grew out of his experience as an undergraduate history major here at the University of Virginia and his time in graduate school at Johns Hopkins University, where so many of his professors challenged and inspired him as a thinker and scholar both inside and outside the classroom.

Faculty Talk Descriptions

John Ragosta

Poplar Forest: The Land and the Idea: Jefferson had his Bedford County home built as a retreat, truly a Roman villa where he could bask in a bucolic place apart from the stress of visitors and business that engulfed Monticello. When he visited there, often for weeks at a time, three or four times a year, he sought the “solitude of a hermit.” While Teddy Roosevelt is properly considered the father of America’s national parks, Jefferson would well have understood the search for renewal in the landscape that Roosevelt, John Muir, and others preached.


Robert McDonald

Land and the Case for Independence: Land was a central grievance of American colonists during the Imperial Crisis of the 1760s and 1770s. First Britain curtailed colonial settlement through the Proclamation of 1763. Then the 1774 Quebec Act cast doubt on territorial guarantees made in the English-speaking colonies’ charters. After Lexington and Concord, Britain’s alliance with Indian nations solidified the perception that the government stood opposed to colonists’ effort to spread English liberty throughout the continent. The charges against the king that Jefferson incorporated into the Declaration of Independence were rooted in the belief that “our forefathers” “effected settlements in the distant and inhospitable wilds of America” “at the expense of their blood” and “at the hazard of their fortunes.” Given that, and given a population that doubled every 20 years, was not Americans’ free access to the land both a birthright and required for survival?


John Ragosta

Young Jefferson Imagines the West: Long before Lewis & Clark, Jefferson was thinking about the role of the West in the new nation – at the time, the West being the land from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River. His draft of the Ordinance of 1784 set an important and extraordinary precedent: new states would be formed in the West and admitted to the union on equal terms with existing states. Previously, nations had seen such lands as opportunities for empires, or colonies, but in the United States, they would be the building blocks of a vast republic. Jefferson imagined that the new land regime, by ending concepts of primogeniture and entail, would work against control of American lands by an aristocracy.


Robert McDonald 

President Jefferson’s “Empire of Liberty”: While Hamilton trained his eyes on Europe for glimpses of America’s future, Jefferson looked west. There, Jefferson’s “Empire of Liberty” offered Americans benefits without history’s burdens. Aristocracy and slavery could be left behind and a new order of the ages could begin. Yet the Constitution remained silent about the nation’s future in the West. How did Jefferson make sense of the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Louisiana Purchase, and the creation of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point given his views about the rightful size and scope of the national government? How would the long-term implications of westward expansion complement and complicate Jefferson’s vision?


Lily Fox-Bruguiere

Jefferson’s Design on the Land: From Monticello to the University of Virginia: A true gentleman of the Enlightenment, Thomas Jefferson drew upon his wealth of knowledge in architecture, gardening, and botany as he planned and sketched the landscape designs and selected the worthiest plants for both Monticello and the University. From Monticello’s ferme ornée and experimental vegetable garden to the University’s Academical Village and planned botanical garden, Jefferson consistently found inspiration in European predecessors while establishing an American style that was simultaneously for the education of the individual and the improvement and independence of the new nation.


John Ragosta

Yeoman Farmers in Jefferson’s Political Landscape: Thomas Jefferson envisioned an American republic – an empire of liberty – filled with yeoman farmers operating independently on their own farms. His praise of yeomen borders on the poetic. He believed that they would not only be relatively free from the influence of aristocratic/moneyed interests, but they would be a bulwark against any attacks – political, economic, cultural, or military – on a free republic. The central role of yeomen also guaranteed that political leaders would have to interact on somewhat equal terms with these farmers, a heuristic exercise in political equality. For our times, the centrality of yeomen to the Jeffersonian vision of the early republic raises important questions of political independence and wealth inequality.


Justene Hill Edwards

The Politics of African-American Property Ownership as Freedom: Thomas Jefferson had a complex relationship with his close friend, once-secretary, and career diplomat William Short, the owner of Morven.  One issue over which they never found commonality was slavery.  Both Jefferson and Short included slaveholding in their financial portfolios, but it was Short who made good on his moral and philanthropic goals of emancipating his slaves.  Short also pledged economic support to the American Colonization Society, an organization that supported the relocation of free African Americans to regions outside the United States.  Over Short’s lifetime, he developed a revulsion to slavery, to the extent that he refused visits to Monticello after the 1810s because of his increasing anti-slavery beliefs.  Jefferson and Short held different views on the correct path towards slave emancipation, with Short freeing his slaves and providing them with land while Jefferson advocated for a more gradual process of slave emancipation.  The perspectives of Thomas Jefferson and William Short illuminate the complicated political history of gradual emancipation and the early republican idea of property ownership as freedom.

Program Cost
  • SJS Program cost (housing not included) $1,395
  • 3-Nights: SJS Program cost for participants wishing to stay on Grounds in a Lawn Room or Brown College $1,590 (specific Lawn rooms not guaranteed)
  • 4-Nights: SJS Program cost for participants wishing to stay on Grounds in a Lawn Room or Brown College $1,650 (specific Lawn rooms not guaranteed)

Participants that wish to stay at the Colonnade Club (limited rooms available) will pay SJS cost and additional rental cost.

  • 3-Nights: Colonnade Club Twin: Twin beds (2 beds in a room) $690
  • 4-Nights: Colonnade Club Twin: Twin beds (2 beds in a room) $860
  • 3-Nights: Colonnade Club Queen: (1 Queen bed in a room) $725 Sold Out
  • 4-Nights: Colonnade Club Queen: (1 Queen bed in a room) $905 Sold Out

Participants wishing to take the Poplar Forest trip will add $130. Poplar Forest package: includes transportation, breakfast, lunch, and tour for $130 (space limited—first-come basis)

This seminar is designed for adult learners 18 and over. 

Options for Lodging Off Grounds

Hotel Lodging:

Participants are responsible for reserving and paying for their rooms. Your credit card must be provided at the time the reservation is made.

Graduate Charlottesville
1309 W. Main Street
Charlottesville, VA 22903

June 24 Rate: $135
June 25 Rate: $171
June 26 Rate: $243
June 27 Rate: $261

Rooms held under 062420Musser until May 24, 2020
24-hour cancellation policy

Fairfield Inn & Suites Charlottesville Downtown/University Area
401 Cherry Avenue
Charlottesville, VA 22903

Room block—June 24, 25, 26, 27
Rate: $169/night

Rooms held under Summer Jefferson Symposium until May 24, 2020
48-hour cancellation policy
Book here.

 Country Inn & Suites
1600 Emmet Street North
Charlottesville, VA 22901

Room block—June 24, 25, 26, 27
Rate: $109/night
Rooms held under Summer Jefferson Symposium until May 23, 2020
72-hour cancellation policy

Physical Capabilities

This is a moderately active seminar that requires some walking on uneven terrain, climbing steps, and prolonged standing. This seminar will follow a leisurely pace, but it is entirely up to you to pace yourself according to your own capability. It is always possible to choose not to participate in certain seminar activities. We strongly recommend that you consult your personal physician about your health and the likelihood of experiencing any problems with the physical requirements of this symposium. Also, discuss with your physician any necessary precautions that you should take before attending this seminar.

Charlottesville’s weather during late June is occasionally humid with high temperatures that range between 80°F to mid-90°F.

Cancellation and Refund Policy

You are responsible for canceling your own hotel reservations, if applicable.

If you cancel your SJS reservation on or before March 23, 2020, you will receive a refund of 80% of your total registration package.

If you cancel your SJS reservation between March 23 and April 30, 2020, you will receive a refund of 50% of your total registration package.

If you cancel your SJS reservation after May 1, 2020, no refund will be issued.


Summer Jefferson Symposium 2020
“Jefferson, Land, and Independence”
(Optional early check-in Wednesday, June 24)
Thursday, June 25 – Sunday, June 28

Wednesday, June 24:  Early Check-In (optional)

CHECK-IN 2:00-4:00 pm (light snacks)
2:00 – 4:00 pm Bus Loop from Culbreth Parking Garage to SJS Bus Stop/Hotel A
Hotel A, Washington Hall
(LL Team & OOE helpers)
Rotunda and Enslaved Memorial Tour with Kirt von Daacke 4:30-6:00 pm (TBD, not confirmed) (limited capacity)
Dinner on your own A list of restaurants will be provided.

Thursday, June 25:  Trip to Poplar Forest (optional)

BREAKFAST 7:30-8:15 am
7:15 – 8:00 am Bus Loop from Culbreth to SJS Bus Stop/Hotel A
Hotel A, Washington Hall
Depart for Lynchburg
Lecture 1: Poplar Forest: The Land and the Idea by John Ragosta (on the bus)
8:30 am Bus Departs (limited capacity)
Arrive 10:15 am On Grounds of Poplar Forest
Depart for Charlottesville 1:30 pm

Thursday, June 25: Check-In and Welcome

CHECK-IN 12:00-1:30 pm (box lunch)
12:00-1:15 pm Bus Loop from Culbreth to SJS Bus Stop/Hotel A
Hotel A, Washington Hall
Rotunda and Enslaved Memorial Tour with Kirt von Daacke 2:00-3:30 pm (limited capacity)
Reception 6:15 pm
5:45-6:15 pm Bus Loop from Culbreth to SJS Bus Stop/Hotel A
Introductions by Althea Brooks and John Ragosta 7:00 pm
Lecture 2: Declaration and Land by Robert McDonald 9:20 pm Bus Departs SJS Bus Stop/Hotel A for Culbreth
Evening Ends 9:30 pm

Friday, June 26

BREAKFAST 7:30-8:45 am
7:15-8:00 am Bus Loop from Culbreth to SJS Bus Stop/Hotel A
Colonnade Club, Solarium
Day at Morven with Trip to Monticello
Board Bus at SJS Bus Stop/Hotel A for Morven 9:00 am Bus Departs from SJS Bus Stop/Hotel A
Morven Tour 9:30 am Morven
Lecture 3: Jefferson, Land, and Slavery by Justene Hill Edwards
Lecture 4: Jefferson and the Landscape by Lily Fox-Bruguiere
LUNCH WITH MR. JEFFERSON 2:00 pm Depart for Monticello
Tour at Monticello Choose: Monticello Highlights Tour or Center for Historic Plants Monticello
Exploration on your own: visit gardens, watch movie, or shop the gift store 5:15 pm Depart Monticello for Morven
DINNER 5:30-8:00 pm Morven
Lecture 5: Yeoman Farmers in Jefferson’s Political Landscape by John Ragosta Over Coffee
Depart for Grounds 8:15 pm Bus Departs with Drop-Off at Culbreth and SJS Bus Stop/Hotel A

Saturday, June 27

BREAKFAST 7:30-8:45 am
7:15-8:00 am Bus Loop from Culbreth to SJS Bus Stop/Hotel A
Colonnade Club, Solarium
Lecture 6: Young Jefferson Imagines the West by John Ragosta 9:00-10:15 am
Morning Break Minor Hall, Lobby
Lecture 7: President Jefferson’s “Empire of Liberty” by Robert McDonald
LUNCH Newcomb Hall, Room TBD
Afternoon Break 2:00-5:30 pm
Depart Grounds for Montalto (no private cars) 5:15 pm Depart Culbreth Parking Garage
5:30 pm Depart SJS Bus Stop/Hotel A
Reception 6:00 pm Montalto
DINNER Welcome and History of Montalto by Andrew O’Shaughnessy (tentative)
Lecture 8: Faculty share their insight (panel discussion) and Trivia Game Over Coffee
Return to Grounds on Bus By 10:00 pm

Sunday, June 28

BREAKFAST 7:30-9:00 am Colonnade Club, Solarium
Certificates and Farewells
CHECK-OUT 9:00-11:00 am