Throughout the month of September, Montpellier by James Madison celebrates Constitution Month with special programs focusing on the 1787 document that launched a nation still thriving in our modern age.
The Montpelier Foundation is committed to constitutional education and engagement, according to the trustees of the estate of America’s fourth president, considered the father of the Constitution.
In rural Orange County, Madison’s circa 1760 mansion joins gardens, grounds, other historic buildings, archaeological sites, cemeteries, an ancient forest and visitor center to tell the story more and more complete of this 2,650 acre property managed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
September 17, Constitution Day will be a highlight of the month, with specialty tours, activity booths, food trucks and roundtables on current events.
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Constitution Month activities began Saturday at the historic site.
Matt Reeves, Montpelier’s Director of Archeology and Landscape Restoration, led a walking tour of a plantation landscape hidden under the tree canopy of East Woods.
Founding members of the Montpelier Descendants Committee, Henry Anglin and James French, who is the new Chairman of the Foundation Board, joined the march along with Dr. Michael Blakey, NEH Professor of Anthropology and American Studies at the College of William & Mary.
“We are currently evaluating how to open this section of the woods as walking trails for the public, so that we can develop the full American story we are telling in Montpellier,” foundation spokeswoman Christy Moriarty said by email. at the Culpeper Star-Exponent. .
In addition to Montpellier’s Constitution Day festivities on September 17, the foundation is hosting in-person and virtual events throughout the month to highlight the U.S. Constitution, the life of James Madison, and the contributions of the enslaved community.
A Constitution Day panel on “equal sharing between partners in Montpellier” will feature James French, the Reverend Larry Walker and Dr. Elizabeth Chew, the foundation’s interim president and CEO, Moriarty noted.
The free discussion will take place with limited attendance in person at 10:30 a.m. on September 17 in the Grand Salon of the David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center, and virtually.
“Discover structural parity and what this new power-sharing relationship means for the future of Montpellier,” the Montpelier Foundation said in a statement about the program, describing structural parity – or equal power-sharing – as “ a model of community governance”.
“An example of the kind of democracy that James Madison himself proposed, parity offers exciting new opportunities for Montpellier and the visitors,” the foundation said. “Join the leadership of the Montpelier Foundation and the Montpelier Descendants Committee to find out what this new power-sharing relationship means for the future of Montpelier.”
A second round table on the theme “Is the Constitution in danger? will take place with a limited number of in-person attendees at 1 p.m. on September 17 in the Grand Salon.
“America is going through a moment of political conflict, which threatens the heart of our democracy,” the foundation said.
“When James Madison established the framework of our founding document in 1787, only a fraction of the population could participate in this revolutionary new form of government,” he noted. “America did not move effortlessly toward democracy. Join the panelists in a discussion about the current political crisis, America’s vulnerability to democratic collapse, and how we can reinvigorate the American democratic spirit.
Panelists will include New York Times Opinion Columnist and CBS News Political Analyst Jamelle Bouie; Michael Higginbotham, professor of law and former acting dean of the University of Baltimore Law School and author of “Race Law,” published by Carolina Academic Press; and Dr. Lindsay M. Chervinsky, senior fellow at the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University. Previously the historian for the White House Historical Association, Chervinsky is a lecturer in the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University.
Also on Saturday, Constitution month kicked off with a special Constitution tour in Montpellier.
“James Madison did more than anyone else to create, secure and perpetuate our revolutionary system of government,” the foundation said of the tour. “And it was here in Montpellier that he found inspiration and conceived many of his initial ideas. This hour-long tour explores the origins of the Constitution in Montpellier and the legacy it leaves today.
Another opportunity to learn the history of Montpellier and the nation will be “Constituting Community: A Conversation with Descendants of Enslaved Americans,” a free, virtual panel discussion at 7 p.m. on September 8. The lecture will explore the history and legacy of Montpelier’s slave community through the words of its descendants.
“These stories and traditions, passed down from generation to generation, speak not only to the history of Montpellier, but also to an American national narrative,” the foundation said. “Drawing connections between past and present, panelists recount how their ancestors helped shape the America we know today.”
This discussion will be free for members of the Montpellier descendants community and for students. Email [email protected] to get the code.
For the full Montpellier Constitution Month schedule, see montpelier.org/events/constitution-day.