ORANGE, VA ( Associated Press) — Several employees previously fired or suspended during the recent turmoil at the Montpelier estate of former President James Madison in Virginia have been reinstated to their jobs.
Montpellier’s recently appointed interim president and CEO Elizabeth Chew opted to bring back four staff members who had been let go in April by the previous leadership, the Culpepper Star-Exponent reported., Chew also expressed optimism in an email to supporters that the estate would recover from the recent controversy over how it would, or would not, share governance with the descendants of the people who once enslaved there.
Earlier this year, the board that manages the asset was criticized for going in reverse 2021 commitment to share rights equally with descendants.
More than 11,000 people, including Montpellier visitors and donors, signed a petition protesting the decision and the dismissal or suspension of pro-equality staff members with decades of professional experience.
Dozens of organizations also expressed displeasure over the board’s retreat. Groups range from an organization of descendants of Japanese American citizens during World War II to an international consortium of “Sites of Conscience” that includes the Holocaust Museum.
In May, in another reversal, the board elected 11 new members, representing the descendants of those once enslaved there. The Washington Post reports that the vote created complete equality for descendants in the foundation’s leadership,
Chew himself had previously been eliminated from a role as executive vice president and chief curator of the plantation, but the estate’s board appointed him to the new leadership position in late May. It then reinstated four employees who had been laid off or terminated in April.
“The entire staff has gone through a lot over the past few months, and their return has done a lot to boost morale and instill hope that as an organization, Montpellier will continue in the right direction,” Chew wrote.