If you want to understand America, you have to understand Thomas Jefferson. And, as one guest on Studio 360 explains this week, you can’t understand Jefferson without understanding his home, Monticello. “Monticello,” the latest hour-long installment of the radio program’s ongoing “American Icons” series, goes a long way toward securing that understanding; it’s great fun, whether or not you’re a history buff, and essential listening.
Studio 360’s host (and VSL’s co-founder), Kurt Andersen, speaks with historians, filmmakers, architects, groundskeepers and Jefferson’s surviving descendents; delves into the scandal surrounding Jefferson’s slave and lover, Sally Hemings; and tells the remarkable (and almost entirely unknown) story of Uriah Levy—a Jewish naval officer who rescued Monticello from certain ruin. The themes couldn’t be more resonant. Some of the stories are remarkably sad. But nothing you’ll hear here is quite what you’d expect to hear: in fact, a cameo by Stephen Colbert is one of the show’s many highlights.
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