ALTON - The Hayner Public Library District will host the official Thomas Jefferson of Colonial Williamsburg.

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Kurt Smith as Thomas Jefferson

During “An Evening with Thomas Jefferson” on Friday, May 10, 2024, community members can enjoy a lecture by Kurt Smith, a famous Thomas Jefferson impersonator. Smith will interact with the crowd and answer questions as Jefferson at 6 p.m. at the Genealogy and Local History Library.

“His entire job is being Thomas Jefferson, so he’s read thousands of letters,” explained Lacy McDonald, Genealogy and Local History Library manager. “He’s done everything to try and learn about that time period so he can really understand what Jefferson was thinking about.”

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Smith normally portrays Jefferson in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. His appearance in Illinois was sponsored by the Lewis and Clark Society of America. He will stop at the Lewis and Clark Historic Site on Friday and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield next week. He is also slated to appear at the Wildey Theater in Edwardsville next Thursday, May 16, 2024, for a debate between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, portrayed by Michael Lepage.

McDonald said Hayner is excited to bring Smith back to the library after his performance in Alton last year. She explained that Smith makes a point to discuss the larger context of what was happening during Jefferson’s time period, which paints a fuller picture of Jefferson’s life.

During last year’s performance, McDonald said a patron asked Smith about Jefferson’s history as a slave owner. Smith shared some of the history of the time period and explained Jefferson’s stance as a man who saw slavery as morally wrong but still participated in the system. Smith also portrays Jefferson as an enemy to Alexander Hamilton, though Smith himself has said he personally admires Hamilton.

“I think it’s really easy with all historical figures to judge them from our time period, and sometimes that’s totally appropriate, but a lot of times there’s just more nuance and you got to really understand what else was going on at the time, what control certain people had in certain situations,” McDonald said. “I think that’s the best part. You’re getting to know not just him as a person but what else was going on. And [Smith] takes it so seriously. He’s portraying the third president. He wants to make sure that he’s doing this in a very respectful and fair and truthful way.”

These topics and more will be discussed at the lecture and Q&A at Hayner Library on Friday. McDonald encourages people to call 1-800-613-3163 to secure their spot at the free “An Evening with Thomas Jefferson” event. For more information about the Hayner Public Library District and their programming, visit their official website at HaynerLibrary.org.

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