The National Trust for Historic Preservation Response to Inaccurate and Misleading Media Reports
Founded in 1949, the National Trust for Historic Preservation was established to preserve America’s historic places and interpret their stories for the public. Over the last seven decades, the organization has advocated for and invested in historic places that honor and memorialize the nation’s founding fathers and countless other stories central to our shared national narrative. In this work, the National Trust and other preservation organizations are helping to build a more perfect union, where all Americans can see themselves in historic places that we collectively celebrate.
Historic sites are profoundly important cultural touchstones because their interpretations are informed by new understandings, expanded by scholarship and research, and most of all because they bring to life the stories that will guide us toward a more inclusive future that is representative of our ideals as a nation. Recently, some media outlets and internet blogs have been publishing inaccurate information about the National Trust and Montpelier, the home of James Madison in Orange, Virginia, a historic site owned by the National Trust and operated by an independent partner organization, The Montpelier Foundation. These media reports erroneously assert that Montpelier effectively ignores Madison’s constitutional legacy and instead focuses almost exclusively on his role as a slaveholder.
These reports are not only false, but they misrepresent our shared goal of telling a more complete history. The Montpelier Foundation has issued a statement correcting these inaccuracies, emphasizing that its programs and tours, contrary to some of the reports, do focus on James Madison and the Constitution, as well as on the reality of slavery at Montpelier.
By interpreting cultural places to tell the full American story, the National Trust, the Montpelier Foundation, and other historic sites with histories of enslavement are working to ensure that these parts of American history that have often been ignored can now be more accurately represented.
Sharing histories that have not previously been told does not mean other aspects of history are being erased. Historic places are powerful precisely because they prevent our histories from being erased. Instead, they provide spaces for us to engage with and debate the multiple, sometimes contradictory, ideas represented in our past and our present. This work does not subtract or detract from the history that has been presented thus far, it adds to it in deeply meaningful ways.
The National Trust is a non-partisan organization, and we are committed to telling the full American story through places because doing so strengthens our communities and our country by helping us understand our shared heritage and inspiring us to realize our nation’s foundational ideals.