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Monticello naturalization ceremony on July 4 to feature first Black woman speaker

Misty Copeland Monticello
Misty Copeland, submitted photo

More than 50 people will take the oath of citizenship at Monticello on July 4.

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the private nonprofit organization that owns and operates Monticello, also announced the keynote speaker for the Independence Day Celebration and Naturalization Ceremony.

Ballerina and philanthropist Misty Copeland will be the first Black woman to deliver the keynote address at Monticello’s ceremony.

Copeland is a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre, having been the first Black woman to be promoted to the position in the company’s 75-year history in 2015.

“Ms. Copeland is an American icon whose journey embodies the entangled histories, and the principles of progress and unity that infuse Monticello,” said Dr. Jane Kamensky, president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. “We are honored to have her join us in celebration of Thomas Jefferson’s belief that immigrants are a source of strength for our country, contributing to the success of our American experiment.”

An avid philanthropist, Copeland launched The Misty Copeland Foundation in 2022 with its first signature program BE BOLD, which aims to bring greater diversity, equity and inclusion to dance, especially ballet. She is an ambassador and alum of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Mind Leaps, a Rwanda-based arts program that helps young people get off the streets and into an academic setting to help enhance their lives.

“This event and its long tradition symbolize the strength we attain in blending unique cultures and identities,” Copeland said.

“I look forward to welcoming our new citizens with open arms and hearing their stories that will now be a part of the American story.”

The public ceremony begins at 9 a.m.

Parking and shuttle bus transportation will be provided from Piedmont Virginia Community College to Monticello.

For those that cannot attend in person, the ceremony will be livestreamed.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.