Montpelier Staffers: We Were Fired for Backing Descendants' GroupHistorians in the News
tags: slavery, historic preservation, James Madison, Montpelier, public history
Several senior staff members at James Madison’s historic Montpelier estate lost their jobs Monday, in what they called retaliation for speaking out on behalf of a group of descendants of enslaved workers that has been in conflict with the board of directors.
Executive vice president and chief curator Elizabeth Chew, director of archaeology Matt Reeves and spokeswoman Christy Moriarty were all fired Monday, with another top staffer fired last week and two others suspended, according to a statement from the staffers and the descendants group.
“The work that we have done with the Montpelier Descendants Committee in the six-and-a-half years I have been at Montpelier were the thing in my professional life I’m the most proud of,” Chew said in an interview. “To lose my job over it is disappointing, to say the least.”
The groups charged that Montpelier’s president, Roy Young, was punishing the staffers for publicly opposing the board’s vote at the end of March to strip power from the Montpelier Descendants Committee (MDC), a nonprofit formed as the official representative of the families of former enslaved workers.
“After making repeated public statements that the Foundation would not retaliate against staff for opposing the Board’s abandonment of its commitment, Young has reneged,” the MDC said in its announcement, released by the law firm Cultural Heritage Partners.
Young did not respond to voice and email messages Monday. In an interview Friday, he responded to a question about potential firings by saying he could not talk about personnel decisions. A call to the press office at Montpelier went to Moriarty’s voice mail.
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