This series of Everyday Conversations is about a family traveling to each of the 50 states in the U.S. Join the family members as they learn about local pastimes and history. These conversations are for intermediate-level English-language learners or higher.
In this conversation, the family goes to Monticello, in Virginia, the home of the third U.S. president, Thomas Jefferson.
Sam: Did Thomas Jefferson live at Monticello when he was president?
Paul: No. He, like all other U.S. presidents, lived at the White House during his presidency. The only exception is George Washington.
Claudine: So he lived here before and after he was president?
Paul: That’s right. And he loved this place. Jefferson designed the house and was even buried on the grounds here.
Gina: And it was built as a plantation house. Remember, this was during the antebellum period, and this was part of the South.
Claudine: So Jefferson had slaves?
Gina: Yes. He had several hundred slaves during his lifetime.
Paul: But while we were in Pennsylvania, we learned that he drafted the Declaration of Independence. And that document states “that all men are created equal.” How could he have slaves and still think all men are equal?
Gina: That is a great question. Perhaps we’ll learn more about him today at Monticello that will help answer your question.
Now let’s review the vocabulary.
Thomas Jefferson was the third president of the United States.
Monticello was the home of Thomas Jefferson.
A presidency is the period of time a person is president.
To bury someone means that a person who is no longer alive is placed in a grave (a hole in the ground that is covered with dirt after the body is placed in it).
The land around a large building is called the grounds.
A plantation house is the main house of a plantation. A plantation is a large area of land where crops (such as cotton or wheat) are grown. During a period of time in the southern United States, plantation owners used slave labor to do the farming and other work on the plantation.
Antebellum means “before the war.” In the U.S., it refers to the time before the American Civil War. (For more information on the Civil War, see our Pennsylvania Everyday Conversation.)
To draft a written document means to write the first version of it, before writing the final version of the document.
The Declaration of Independence is a document that stated the 13 colonies in America were independent from Great Britain. It took effect on July 4, 1776. July 4 is a national holiday (called the Fourth of July and Independence Day) in the U.S.
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Everyday Conversations are developed by the State Department’s Heidi Howland, a senior program officer in the Office of English Language Programs, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Learn more about planning a trip to the U.S. and applying for a tourist visa.