Movie Night: The Levys of Monticello

Thursday, August 11, 2022
6:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Petty Auditorium

This documentary tells the little-known story of the Levy family, which owned and carefully preserved Monticello for nearly a century—far longer than Jefferson or his descendants.

When Thomas Jefferson died in 1826, he left a mountain of personal debt, which forced his heirs to sell his beloved Monticello home and all of its furnishings and other items. The Levy family purchased and then restored Monticello for generations. The remarkable story of the Levy family also intersects with the rise of antisemitism that runs throughout the course of American history.

The Levys of Monticello focuses on the two principal owners of Monticello during the Levy years. Uriah Phillips Levy, who strongly admired Jefferson for his views on religious freedom, had a 50-year career in the United States Navy and rose to become the navy’s first Jewish commodore while enduring persistent anti-Semitism throughout his career. Levy, like Jefferson, also owned enslaved people, and was responsible for maintaining the bitter legacy of slavery at Monticello until the Civil War put an end to it. After Uriah Levy’s death, ownership of Monticello eventually passed to his nephew, Jefferson Monroe Levy, a wealthy New York businessman and stock speculator who also served two terms in the United States Congress.

While focusing on the story of the Levy family’s 89-year ownership and preservation of Monticello, the film also tells a broader story about the anti-Semitism that runs throughout American history, right up to the present day. The film also addresses the pivotal role that enslaved people played at Monticello, during both Thomas Jefferson’s and Uriah Levy’s years as owners.

2021 - 72 minutes - Unrated - Documentary

We will watch the film in the auditorium, followed by a brief discussion in the Radmacher Room.

Watch the trailer for The Levys of Monticello.

This film is presented in partnership with the JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival.

Online registration is closed.