Color Through a Child's Eyes


Building on the success of The Mere Distinction of Colour, Montpelier’s innovative exhibit Color Through a Child’s Eyes invites children and their caregivers to explore, ask questions, and learn about the history of race and slavery from a child’s perspective. Color Through A Child’s Eyes was created incorporating feedback and ideas generated from the community of descendants of those who were once enslaved at Montpelier, as well as input from early childhood development experts.

Children Learn Early

Research shows that humans—including babies and toddlers—are hard-wired to notice differences and similarities, including skin color. But associating positive or negative values to skin color is a learned behavior. Educator Beverly Daniel Tatum notes “Children who have been silenced often enough learn not to talk about race publicly. Their questions don’t go away, they just go unasked.” Color Through A Child’s Eyes allows children to examine and celebrate the diversity of our society.

Talking About Slavery

Slavery is a tough topic, but even young children understand ideas of fairness, freedom, family, and work. Finding ways to talk about difficult topics when children are young builds the critical thinking skills necessary to have open and honest conversations as they grow older. When people don’t talk about a topic, it sends the message that it’s off limits. Children will learn about the variety of tasks and jobs enslaved children conducted at Montpelier during the Madison era.

A Family Enslaved

About one-third of the people enslaved at Montpelier were children. Ben, Becca, and Ellen Stewart were the children of Sukey, who was also enslaved and served as Dolley Madison’s personal maid. You can read Becca’s story to learn of her family’s life, and her desire to remain with her family—a choice beyond her control.

Share a Book

Books are great tools for introducing young children to topics like race, identity, and justice. You can find books that provide positive images of people of color, celebrate differences, and help you talk about tough issues like racism. Children and their caregivers are invited to have a seat in the “Reading Nook” to examine a selection of age-appropriate books for early learners.

Let’s Be Fair

When we teach kids how to be compassionate, fair, open minded, and respectful, we are building the skills and empathy they will need to make positive choices and understand all kinds of people. Learn about ways you can be an “upstander” in your community.

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