AAM stands with the descendants of the enslaved at Montpelier and the community’s right to define itself.
In June 2021, The Montpelier Foundation (TMF) committed to, and confirmed in its bylaws revision, a highly-publicized decision to share equal co-stewardship authority over the Museum and Estate of James Madison with the Montpelier Descendants Committee (MDC), a nonprofit group representing descendants of people enslaved by the Madisons. This historic and well-lauded commitment served as an exemplar for the museum field and signaled a powerful shift toward a future of shared leadership. On March 25, 2022, less than a year after this commitment was made, the TMF Board voted to change its policy of shared governance with the MDC. While the TMF Board has expressed that it remains committed to ensuring descendants of the enslaved represent 50% of the board, this new decision disempowers the MDC and gives full authority to the current board to decide who represents the descendant community.
The public commitments museums make to their communities are not to be taken lightly. Swaying from those commitments only undermines trust between our country’s museums and the public, causing irreparable harm to the descendant and underserved communities they aim to serve. We urge The Montpelier Foundation to hear the calls from its staff, the Montpelier Descendants Committee, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation and to come to a solution that honors the commitments they have made and respects the partnership and legacy of the Montpelier Descendants Committee, treating them as full partners in the TMF Board of Directors’ commitment to 50-50 parity.