Slavery and the Making of AmericaPicture of a plantation house near Social Circle, Georgia
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Photo of actor portraying Jupiter
Photo of actor portraying Jupiter
Jupiter (1743-1800)

During Thomas Jefferson's childhood on a Virginia plantation, he shared adventures with a boy named Jupiter. At twenty-one, having gained his majority, Thomas became Jupiter's master. As a personal valet, Jupiter dressed Thomas and accompanied him on travels. In this intimate role, he gained Thomas' trust and earned privileges. He was often sent out alone on errands involving large monetary sums.

Jupiter's 1774 reassignment as stable manager meant fewer separations from his new wife, a kitchen worker. Despite proximity, however, the couple's time together was limited. Jefferson's slaves were constantly employed, working up to 14-hour days. When not occupied with other duties, Jupiter toiled as a stonecutter.

Photo of actors portraying young Thomas Jefferson and Jupiter
Young Thomas Jefferson and Jupiter
Although Jefferson provided for his slaves better than most, he rarely considered their freedom. The labor, even of a companion like Jupiter, was too valuable. Writing on Jupiter's death, Thomas acknowledged the loss both emotionally and practically. "I am, sorry for him," Jefferson wrote of Jupiter, "as well as sensible he leaves a void in my administration which I cannot fill up."
Photo of Thomas Jefferson's FARM BOOK
Jupiter's New Clothes

Photo of dramatic re-enactment of Jupiter speaking with another slave
Thomas Jefferson kept detailed records in his Farm Book of the food, clothing, and blankets that he distributed to his slaves. The above chart shows that in 1818-19, Jupiter received woolen cloth, shirting, a hat and summer clothes. Some slaves were granted more than others in this year, and a few received nothing at all.

Discover more about Jupiter and the lives of Jefferson's other slaves in SLAVERY AT MONTICELLO by Lucia Stanton (Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, 1996)

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