Sally Hemings

Sally Hemings


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Es posible que Sally Hemings (o Hemmings) se llamara originalmente Sarah. Se cree que era hija de un esclavo y John Wayles, el suegro de Thomas Jefferson. Hemings fue heredado por Jefferson y su esposa en 1774 y aparentemente sirvió como enfermera y acompañante de los hijos de Jefferson. En 1787, Hemings, de 14 años, acompañó a la hija de Jefferson, Mary, a Francia para unirse a su padre en una misión diplomática. Algunos han especulado que una relación entre Hemings y Jefferson comenzó en este momento. Dos descripciones existentes de Sally Hemings coinciden en su complexión y belleza: Thomas J. Randolph, el nieto de Jefferson, la describió como "de color claro y decididamente guapa". La esclava residente la recordaba como "poderosa, casi blanca. Muy hermosa, con el pelo largo y liso por la espalda". Hemings continuó sirviendo a la familia Jefferson y nunca fue legalmente liberada. Hemings tuvo al menos cuatro hijos; Las acusaciones de complicidad de Jefferson fueron presentadas por primera vez por un ex empleado amargado. Naturaleza (5 de noviembre de 1998) informó que las muestras de ADN tomadas de los descendientes de Jefferson se compararon con los descendientes de Hemings y concluyó que Jefferson pudo haber sido padre de uno de los hijos de Sally Hemings. Una investigación posterior arroja dudas sobre los hallazgos anteriores y señala que otros parientes de Jefferson vivían en Cerca de la casa de Monticello y uno podría haber sido el padre del niño o los niños en cuestión. Dos de los hijos de Hemings, Madison y Eston, dejaron saber su creencia de que fueron engendrados por Thomas Jefferson, y descendientes de un tal Thomas C. Sin embargo, a diferencia de Madison y Eston, Woodson no aparece en los registros de Jefferson.


Vea Mujeres importantes y famosas en Estados Unidos.


Sally Hemings

Sally Hemings era hija de Elizabeth Hemings y, supuestamente, John Wayles, el suegro de Thomas Jefferson & # 8217 & # 8211 Elizabeth Hemings y sus hijos vivieron en la plantación de John Wayles & # 8217 durante su vida. En Virginia del siglo XVIII, los niños nacidos de madres esclavas heredaron su estatus legal, por lo tanto, Elizabeth y Sally Hemings y todos sus hijos eran esclavos legalmente, incluso cuando los padres eran sus amos blancos.

Si Sally Hemings & # 8217 padre fuera John Wayles, ella habría sido la media hermana de Thomas Jefferson & # 8217s esposa, Martha Wayles Jefferson. Después de la muerte de Wayles en 1773, Martha heredó la familia Hemings cuando Martha murió en 1782, dejó a la familia Hemings a Thomas Jefferson.

Sally llegó con su madre a Monticello en 1776. Las esclavas de seis u ocho años eran niñeras y asistentes de enfermeras jefas en las plantaciones del sur. A partir de 1784, Sally aparentemente sirvió como sirvienta y compañera de Mary Jefferson, la hija menor de Jefferson.

Sally Hemings y Mary Jefferson vivían en Eppington & # 8211 la residencia de los tíos y tíos de Mary & # 8217 & # 8211 en 1787, cuando Jefferson pidió que su hija Mary se uniera a él en París. Sally, de catorce años, y Mary, de ocho, cruzaron el océano Atlántico hacia Londres ese verano. Fueron recibidos en Londres por John y Abigail Adams, quienes escribieron que Sally & # 8220 parece querer a la niña y parece de buen carácter & # 8221 Jefferson & # 8217s El mayordomo francés, Adrien Petit, escoltó a las dos niñas de Londres a París.

No se sabe si Sally Hemings vivía en la residencia de Jefferson, el Hotel de Langeac, o en la Abbaye de Panthemont, donde las hijas de Jefferson, Martha y Mary, eran estudiantes de internado. Independientemente de los arreglos entre semana, Sally pasaba los fines de semana con Jefferson en su villa. Mientras estaba en París, Sally sin duda recibió una formación que se adaptaba a ella para su puesto de dama y sirvienta de las hijas de Jefferson. Según la ley francesa, Sally estaba libre.

Sally permaneció en Francia durante 26 meses. Jefferson pagó su salario mientras estaba en París, el equivalente a 2 dólares al mes. Según las memorias de 1873 de su hijo Madison, Sally quedó embarazada de Jefferson y se negó a regresar a los Estados Unidos a menos que él aceptara liberar a sus hijos y que Jefferson aceptara esa condición.

Lo que se alega, y no se sabe excepto por implicación, es que Thomas Jefferson y Sally Hemings comenzaron una relación íntima en París. Después de que la familia regresara a Virginia en 1789, Sally parece haber permanecido en Monticello, donde desempeñó las funciones de sirvienta doméstica y sirvienta.

Solo hay dos descripciones conocidas de Sally Hemings. El esclavo Isaac Jefferson recordó que ella era casi blanca. . . muy guapo, cabello largo y liso por la espalda. & # 8221 El biógrafo de Jefferson, Henry S. Randall, recordó a Jefferson & # 8217s nieto Thomas Jefferson Randolph describiéndola como & # 8220 de color claro y decididamente guapa & # 8221.

Sally Hemings tuvo seis hijos, que ahora se cree que fueron engendrados por Thomas Jefferson, y sus fechas de nacimiento están registradas en Jefferson & # 8217s Farm Book o en cartas que él escribió. No registró el nombre del padre de los hijos de Sally.

Cuatro niños que llegaron a la edad adulta:
A Beverly (nacida en 1798), carpintero y violinista, se le permitió abandonar la plantación en 1821 y, según su hermano, pasó a formar parte de la sociedad blanca en Washington, D.C.

Harriet (nacida en 1801), una hilandera en la tienda textil de Jefferson, también dejó Monticello en 1821, probablemente con su hermano Beverly, y pasó por blanco.

Madison Hemings (nacido en 1805), un carpintero y carpintero, obtuvo su libertad en Jefferson y se reasentó en el sur de Ohio en 1836, donde trabajó en su oficio y tenía una granja.

Eston Hemings (nacido en 1808), un carpintero al que también se le dio su libertad en el testamento de Jefferson, se mudó a Chillicothe, Ohio, en la década de 1830. Era un músico profesional muy conocido antes de mudarse en 1852 a Wisconsin, donde cambió su nombre a Eston Jefferson junto con su identidad racial. Tanto Madison como Eston Hemings dieron a conocer su creencia de que eran hijos de Jefferson.

Imagen: Monticello
Jefferson & # 8217s Virginia plantation

Thomas Jefferson estaba en Monticello en el momento de la probable concepción de Sally Hemings y sus seis hijos conocidos. No hay registros que sugieran que ella estuvo en otro lugar en esos momentos, o registros de nacimientos en momentos que excluirían la paternidad de Jefferson. No hay indicios en los relatos contemporáneos de personas familiarizadas con Monticello de que Sally Hemings & # 8217 niños tuvieran padres diferentes. Muchos contemporáneos dijeron que Sally Hemings y los niños # 8217 se parecían mucho a Thomas Jefferson.

Los niños de Sally Hemings & # 8217 eran de piel clara, y tres de ellos (la hija Harriet y los hijos Beverly y Eston) vivían como miembros de la sociedad blanca cuando eran adultos, ocultando sus orígenes. Las personas libres que eran siete octavos de blanco, como lo eran los hijos de Sally y Jefferson, según la ley de Virginia, eran legalmente blancas.

Sally nunca se casó. Como esclava, no podía tener un matrimonio reconocido por la ley de Virginia, pero muchos esclavos tomaron parejas en matrimonios de hecho. Mientras Sally trabajaba en Monticello, tenía a sus hijos cerca. Según su hijo Madison, & # 8220 se les permitió quedarse en la & # 8216 gran casa & # 8217 y sólo se les exigió que hicieran trabajos livianos como hacer mandados. & # 8221 A los 14 años los niños comenzaron su entrenamiento, los hermanos como carpinteros y Harriet como hiladora y tejedora. Beverly, Madison y Eston aprendieron a tocar el violín (Jefferson tocaba el violín).

El nombre de Sally se vinculó públicamente con el de Jefferson en 1802, durante el primer mandato de Jefferson como presidente, cuando un periódico de Richmond publicó la acusación de que ella era la amante de Jefferson y le había dado varios hijos. Aunque hubo rumores antes de 1802, este artículo difundió ampliamente la historia y se publicó en muchos periódicos durante el resto de la presidencia de Jefferson.

La política de Jefferson era no ofrecer una respuesta pública a los ataques personales, y aparentemente no hizo ningún comentario público o privado explícito sobre esta pregunta. Su hija Martha Jefferson Randolph negó en privado los informes publicados, y sus hijos mantuvieron muchos años después que ese vínculo no era posible, tanto por motivos morales como prácticos. También declararon que los sobrinos de Jefferson, Peter y Samuel Carr, eran los padres de los esclavos Monticello de piel clara.

Cuando los tasadores llegaron a Monticello después de la muerte de Jefferson & # 8217 en 1826 para evaluar su patrimonio, describieron a Sally Hemings, de 56 años, como & # 8220 una anciana que valía $ 50. & # 8221 Jefferson & # 8217s hija Martha Jefferson Randolph luego le dio a Sally & # 8220 su tiempo, & # 8221 una forma de libertad no oficial que le permitiría permanecer en Virginia (las leyes en ese momento requerían que los esclavos liberados abandonaran el estado dentro de un año). Sally vivió sus últimos nueve años con sus hijos Madison y Eston en Charlottesville, Virginia.

Sally Hemings murió en 1835 en Charlottesville. Se desconoce la ubicación de su tumba.

Que una relación Jefferson-Hemings no podía ser refutada ni corroborada fue cuestionada en 1998 por pruebas de ADN que establecieron que un individuo portador del cromosoma Y masculino de Jefferson era el padre de Eston Hemings (nacido en 1808), el último hijo conocido nacido de Sally Hemings. Había aproximadamente 25 Jefferson varones adultos que portaban este cromosoma viviendo en Virginia en ese momento, y se sabe que algunos de ellos visitaron Monticello. Los autores del estudio, sin embargo, dijeron & # 8220 que la conclusión más simple y probable & # 8221 era que Thomas Jefferson había engendrado a Eston Hemings.

Poco después de que se publicaran los resultados de la prueba de ADN en noviembre de 1998, la Fundación Thomas Jefferson formó un comité de investigación que constaba de nueve miembros del personal de la fundación. En enero de 2000, el comité informó sus hallazgos de que el peso de toda la evidencia conocida & # 8211 del estudio de ADN, documentos originales, relatos históricos escritos y orales y datos estadísticos & # 8211 indicaba una alta probabilidad de que Thomas Jefferson fuera quizás el padre de los seis niños de Sally Hemings & # 8217 que figuran en los registros de Monticello.


. que se casa con Thomas Jefferson, y.

. cuya madre mestiza y esclavizada fue violada por John Wayles
durante una docena de años.

Para ser claros (porque las cosas se están volviendo un poco confusas), John Wayles es el padre de AMBOS.

Martha Wayles Jefferson y Sally Hemings son medias hermanas.

Sally es 3/4 blanca y 1/4 negra.

Cuando John Wayles murió, Martha heredó a Sally Hemings.

Cuando Martha se casó con Thomas Jefferson,
su propiedad se convirtió en su propiedad,
por lo que se convirtió en el esclavizador de Sally Hemings.

Una vez más, Martha y Sally tienen el mismo padre.
- son medias hermanas -
pero ahora uno de ellos está casado con un Padre Fundador, y el otro está esclavizado por él.

Martha y Thomas Jefferson tienen varios hijos antes de la muerte de Martha.

Después de la muerte de Martha,
Thomas lleva a su hija mayor a Francia con él mientras trabaja allí en nombre de
el gobierno estadounidense recién formado.

En 1787, envió a buscar a su hija Polly, de 9 años.
para venir a Francia al cuidado de Sally, de 14 años.

Sally Hemings sirve a la familia Jefferson
en Francia durante dos años.

En algún momento durante esos dos años,
Thomas Jefferson comienza a violar a Sally Hemings.

Queda embarazada a los 16 años.

Según la ley francesa, Sally podría haber solicitado
por su libertad y permaneció en Francia.

En cambio, ella regresó a América
como propiedad de su violador,
con su promesa de que liberaría a su hijo
cuando el niño cumplió 21 años.

Sally llegaría a tener seis hijos
(que eran cada uno solo 1/8 negro)
por Thomas Jefferson.

Si bien todos estos niños fueron liberados a los 21 años,
Sally nunca ganó su libertad.

Sus hijos, en su mayoría, eligieron vivir sus vidas.
como gente blanca después de ganar su libertad.

Si desea obtener más información
sobre Sally Hemings y su familia,
Leer el libro
Los Hemingses de Monticello: una familia estadounidense
por Annette Gordon-Reed.

El trabajo de Gordon-Reed en este texto
proporcionó evidencia de ADN
demostrando la "relación" entre
Thomas Jefferson y Sally Hemings.


Mujeres importantes de la historia

Virginia:
Nacido en 1773,
Murió en 1835.
Uno contaba una historia entre muchas no contadas.

La historia comienza hace un par de generaciones. Estaba esta mujer africana Susannah Eppes, se llamaba ella, quien terminó en el barco de un capitán inglés llamado John Hemings. Tuvo sexo con ella. Ella está embarazada. Poco después, se encontró viviendo en Virginia, esclava del terrateniente Francis Eppes IV, donde tuvo a su bebé.

El bebé era una niña: Elizabeth Hemings, un inmigrante africano medio blanco de primera generación.

Madre e hija trabajaron para el señor Eppes hasta que su propia hija, la señorita Martha, se casaría. En ese momento, Martha Eppes recibió a Elizabeth Hemings como esclava personal, parte del paquete nupcial.

Entonces, Hemings se mudó de casa y se convirtió en empleada doméstica de la novia y su nuevo esposo, John Wayles, abogado y comerciante de esclavos. Ella también se convirtió en madre: se juntó con un hombre igualmente esclavizado y tuvo cuatro hijos con él.

La cuestión es que las esposas de John Wayles seguían muriendo. Primero Martha Eppes, luego dos más. Después del tercero, decidió tomar a Elizabeth Hemings como su concubina. Ahora, en este punto, Hemings ya era madre de cuatro hijos y ya tenía una relación a largo plazo con otro hombre. Sin embargo, Wayles engendró otros seis hijos con ella. Estos hijos de Heming no solo eran suyos por sangre (era su padre) sino que también eran de su propiedad legal (era su dueño de esclavos). El mas joven fue Sally Hemings.

John también tuvo algunos hijos que eran & # 8217t esclavos, por supuesto. Introduzca Martha Wayles, su hija: ella & # 8217 es la que más tarde se casó con Thomas Jefferson.

¿Entiendo? Ahora, haga una pausa por un momento. Los lazos familiares entre las mujeres Heming y, digamos, las Marthas ya están extrañamente entrelazados. El abuelo de Martha y # 8217 era dueño de Sally y la abuela de Sally. Martha & # 8217s madre era propietaria de Sally & # 8217s madre. Martha y Sally son hermanas.

Martha es blanca & # 8211 una futura Primera Dama.

Sally es tres cuartas partes de blancos y # 8211 una inmigrante africana de segunda generación.

Aquí & # 8217s donde se vuelve extraño. Cuando John Wayles murió, Martha y Thomas Jefferson heredaron mucho. Mucha tierra, mucha deuda, también muchos esclavos. Entre ellos estaban los hijos de Heming: Sally y sus hermanos y hermanas. Lo que significa que cuando John Wayles murió, Martha heredó a sus hermanos. (Jefferson, sus suegros).

Estos niños Hemings aparentemente nunca hicieron ningún trabajo de campo mientras estaban esclavizados por los Jefferson, por lo que eso & # 8217s vale. Pero el patrón continuó: después de que Martha murió y Thomas superó su devastación, comenzó a tener relaciones sexuales con Sally Hemings.

Eso comenzó mientras estaba en el extranjero, trabajando como enviado estadounidense a Francia. Sus dos hijas menores se habían estado quedando con amigos en Estados Unidos, pero cuando la pequeña Lucy murió de tos ferina, Thomas llamó a Polly, de nueve años, para que se uniera a él en el extranjero. Hizo los arreglos para que una mujer mayor la acompañara y la cuidara, pero cuando llegaron, la enfermera resultó ser Sally.

Abigail Adams, que los recibió en Londres, no estaba demasiado emocionada. Sally solo tenía unos 15 años y, según Abigail, no era muy enfermera. Pero Sally se quedó y se unió a Jefferson en París ese verano, donde encontró otras razones para valorarla.

Para que no se diga, hay algunas acusaciones de que todo este asunto de & # 8220consort & # 8221 es materia de leyenda & # 8211 que Thomas Jefferson, quien habló de manera tan entusiasta sobre la dignidad humana de los negros esclavizados, nunca se habría acostado con su difunta esposa & # 8217s media hermana esclavizada.

& # 8220 Nada está escrito con mayor certeza en el libro del destino que estas personas deben ser libres. & # 8221

& # 8220 Tiemblo por mi país cuando reflexiono que Dios es justo, y que su justicia no puede dormir para siempre. & # 8221

El ADN de los niños de Sally no está de acuerdo. De todos modos, ¿qué es tan sorprendente? Jefferson era un hombre poderoso que vivió en una época en la que los hombres poderosos esclavizaban a las personas de color y, a menudo, tenían relaciones sexuales con ellas. A pesar de sus valores aparentes, fue una época de disonancia cognitiva. Así es nuestro propio tiempo. Así es siempre.

Pero no dejemos que & # 8217s se desvíe. Hemings aprendió un poco de francés en París. Más importante aún, se la consideraba legalmente libre mientras se quedara, porque la esclavitud era ilegal allí. Ella podría haberse ido. Sin embargo, Jefferson la dejó embarazada y prometió liberar a sus hijos si volvía a casa, así que lo hizo.

El bebé murió, pero Hemings tuvo otros seis hijos después, cuyos nombres Jefferson anotó en su libro de esclavos & # 8211 con solo una peculiaridad. A diferencia de todos los demás nacimientos de esclavos que registró, no escribió quién era su padre.

Jefferson nunca liberó a Sally Hemings ni a todos sus hijos, como prometió. Durante su vida, Jefferson liberó solo a dos esclavos. En su testamento, liberó a cinco más & # 8211 todos los hombres de Heming, unos pocos, sus propios hijos. La única esclava que quedó libre bajo su vigilancia fue la hija fugitiva de Sally, a quien Thomas decidió no perseguir.

Después de la muerte de Thomas, la sobrina de Sally, Martha Jefferson (la tercera Martha en la fila) decidió mantener a su tía fuera de la subasta después de que liberó a Sally de manera informal, aunque nunca sucedió en forma impresa. Durante los nueve años siguientes, Hemings vivió en Virginia con sus dos hijos menores & # 8211 y, en 1833, todos fueron registrados en el censo como blancos libres.

SIGNIFICADO

Según una línea de pensamiento, Sally Hemings es significativa solo porque Thomas Jefferson es significativo. Hemings no escribió & # 8217t la Declaración de Independencia, después de todo & # 8211, más bien, se sintió impulsada a acostarse con su autor. Lo que es realmente importante es la forma en que la relación de Jefferson con ella cambia lo que pensamos él.

En otras palabras, ella es significativa no por quién era o lo que hizo, sino por lo que le hicieron.

Este es el significado que James Thomson Callendar vocalizó en 1802, sugiriendo en el Richmond Grabadora que el nombre de Hemings mancilla a Jefferson y que de alguna manera ella mancilla la historia estadounidense por haber sido parte de ella.

Es cierto que la única razón por la que sabemos sobre Hemings es que se enredó en los asuntos de un arquetipo patriótico. Sin embargo, hubo muchas otras mujeres que vivieron la misma historia, cuyos nombres no conocemos, y es importante recordar que la historia también las contiene: las invisibles, muchas no denunciadas. Estas son las historias que la vida de Hemings ayuda a iluminar.

Sally Hemings no fue la única. Vivía un patrón matrilineal ya de varias generaciones de profundidad cuando llegó a ella: su abuela Susannah Eppes, impulsada por John Hemings & # 8230 su madre Elizabeth Hemings, impulsada por la propia John Wayles & # 8230, impulsada por Thomas Jefferson.

La palabra & # 8220impelled & # 8221 se elige conscientemente. No sabemos qué pensaban estas mujeres de sus parejas sexuales, pero sabemos que sus parejas tenían un control total sobre sus circunstancias. Donde un & # 8220no & # 8221 no tiene peso, un & # 8220yes & # 8221 no puede existir. La palabra & # 8220consent & # 8221 no lo describe.

Hay otra razón por la que la historia de Hemings es significativa: por las preguntas que plantea. ¿Dónde existe hoy el consentimiento sexual y dónde no? ¿Cuánto peso le damos a esto? ¿De qué manera siguen ondulando los patrones de hace tan solo 200 años? ¿De qué manera continuamos determinando los derechos y privilegios de las personas según la raza, el género y otros identificadores?

Además, ¿en qué se diferencia la perspectiva de la historia de las mujeres sobre la historia de Hemings de una narración más convencional? Para esa última pregunta, profundiza en este artículo.


Sally Hemings y su lugar en la historia estadounidense

Como estudiante de tercer grado, Annette Gordon-Reed recuerda haber leído su primera biografía de Thomas Jefferson. Su fascinación por este ex presidente continuó durante su adolescencia y edad adulta, lo que la inspiró a convertirse eventualmente en una distinguida historiadora y escritora. Sin embargo, no fue el propio Jefferson quien más encendió su imaginación, sino su esclava de toda la vida, Sally Hemings (1773-1835).

A lo largo de su célebre carrera, la profesora Gordon-Reed & ndash, profesora de la Universidad Carl M. Loeb en la Facultad de Derecho de Harvard y profesora de Historia en la Universidad de Harvard & ndash, ha dedicado gran parte de su erudición transformadora a contar la notable historia de la Sra. Hemings, centrándose no solo en ella. relación de décadas con Jefferson, pero sobre quién era ella como una mujer compleja formada por la raza, el género, el estado y las circunstancias.

El 26 de enero, la comunidad de Chapin tuvo el privilegio de pasar una velada virtual con este destacado erudito. Como profesora del Instituto Gilder Lehrman de 2021, centró su cautivadora charla en torno a su libro ganador del premio Pulitzer, & ldquoThe Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family & rdquo (2008), una continuación de su trabajo anterior, & ldquoThomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings & rdquo (1997).

Inaugurada en 2006, la conferencia anual de Chapin & rsquos es el resultado de la maravillosa asociación de School & rsquos con The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, que promueve la comprensión de la historia de los Estados Unidos a través de programas educativos. Los estudiantes de las clases 7 y 11 iniciaron sesión en el seminario web virtual, junto con padres actuales y pasados, miembros de la comunidad profesional, ex alumnos, abuelos y amigos.

Además del Premio Pulitzer de Historia, el profesor Gordon-Reed ha recibido una multitud de honores que incluyen un Premio Nacional del Libro, la Medalla Nacional de Humanidades, una Beca Guggenheim y una beca MacArthur & ldquogenius & rdquo. Autora de numerosos volúmenes, fue abogada antes de dedicarse a la escritura y la academia.

"Este libro significa mucho para mí", exclamó el profesor Gordon-Reed después de que la directora de la escuela, Suzanne Fogarty, recibiera una cálida bienvenida y una introducción de James Basker, presidente del Gilder Lehrman Institute.

& ldquoNo estaba satisfecho con el despido de la familia Hemings en relación con Jefferson, así que me pregunté: & lsquo¿Qué puedo hacer? & rsquo & rdquo

El "quodismissal" al que se refería el profesor Gordon-Reed era la eliminación sistemática de Sally Hemings y su familia de los registros históricos. Durante 150 años, los historiadores negaron que Jefferson hubiera tenido una relación íntima con su esclava y engendró a sus seis hijos, a pesar de las pruebas contundentes que respaldan esta afirmación. Aunque la mayoría de los historiadores modernos creen que la relación efectivamente existió, no fue hasta 1998 cuando las pruebas de ADN demostraron la paternidad de Jefferson.

A través de su investigación pionera y minuciosa, la profesora Gordon-Reed arroja nueva luz sobre este debate histórico de larga duración, ayudando a restaurar el lugar que le corresponde a los Hemingses en la narrativa estadounidense. Al examinar los abundantes archivos de Jefferson y rsquos y él era un `` poseedor de registros empedernido '', la oradora describió cómo pudo reconstruir una línea de tiempo que rastreó a la familia Hemings desde la década de 1700 en Virginia hasta los años posteriores a la muerte de Thomas Jefferson en 1826.

La profesora Gordon-Reed & rsquos, un extenso libro de 800 páginas, que ella caracterizó como una "saga generacional de una familia esclavizada", también se benefició del hecho de que los Hemingses vivieron en la plantación de Monticello, Jefferson & rsquos, Virginia, durante más de medio siglo. "Yo podría seguir sus vidas a diferencia de las familias [esclavas] separadas por la venta", dijo. También señaló que Sally Hemings era la media hermana de la difunta esposa de Jefferson & rsquos, Martha Wayles Jefferson, lo que pudo haber contribuido al trato preferencial de Jefferson & rsquos hacia ella.

Junto con Sally Hemings, el libro incluye secciones importantes sobre su madre, Elizabeth Hemings, sus hermanos y cuatro de sus hijos con Jefferson que vivieron (dos murieron en la infancia): sus hijos Beverly, Madison y Eston, y su hija Harriet. "Quería ir más allá de Sally Hemings", dijo, y agregó que los recuerdos de Madison Hemings jugaron un papel importante en su investigación.

En un momento, el profesor Gordon-Reed compartió una historia reveladora sobre la joven Sally Hemings y el tiempo que ella y su hermano, James, pasaron en París, donde Jefferson estaba sirviendo en una misión diplomática. La Sra. Hemings acompañó a la hija de Jefferson & rsquos en el viaje en 1787 y con el tiempo se convirtió en Jefferson & rsquos & ldquoconcubine & rdquo, explicó el profesor.

Al enterarse de que estaba embarazada, la Sra. Hemings quiso permanecer en París, donde sabía que la esclavitud era ilegal según la ley francesa. Sin embargo, Jefferson le hizo una especie de oferta. Si regresaba a Virginia, él prometió liberar a su hijo y a los futuros hijos una vez que alcanzaran la edad adulta.

"Sally decide volver con Jefferson", dijo el profesor Gordon-Reed. & ldquo¿Por qué hizo eso? la gente me pregunta. Piénsalo. Habría sido muy difícil dejar a su familia. Este es el dilema de todas las personas esclavizadas. ¿Te tomas la libertad y dejas a tu familia atrás? & Rdquo

Al final, Jefferson cumplió su promesa. Como reiteró el profesor, Sally Hemings y su familia se elevaron por encima de otras personas esclavizadas, probablemente debido a su conexión biológica con su difunta esposa. Por lo tanto, los niños Heming tenían trabajos domésticos y nunca tuvieron que trabajar como sirvientes. Además, & ldquothey obtuvieron una ventaja en la emancipación. & Rdquo

"Algunos lo vieron como una historia de supervivencia", señaló el profesor Gordon-Reed, reflexionando sobre las complicadas opciones que enfrentó la Sra. Hemings. & ldquoPersonas como Sally utilizaron cualquier agencia que tuvieran para hacer una vida mejor para ellos y sus familias. & rdquo

Durante los últimos minutos de su fascinante conferencia, la profesora Gordon-Reed respondió amablemente a una serie de preguntas enviadas anteriormente, una de las cuales abordó los desafíos de su proceso de investigación.

Es difícil cuando se trata de pequeños fragmentos de información. Es como un rompecabezas. Tienes que pensar de manera creativa y amplia y prepararte para los agujeros secos que no llevan a ninguna parte ”, dijo, y agregó:“ Tienes que creer en tu proyecto y saborear cada victoria. ¡Y tienes que amarlo! & Rdquo

En sus comentarios finales, el Dr. Basker elogió al profesor Gordon-Reed por su charla compasiva y estimulante. "Lo que has hecho por estos estudiantes es realmente abrir un mundo de personas y circunstancias diferentes y ayudarnos a entenderlos como seres humanos", dijo.

La otra cosa que ha hecho es que ha modelado una posibilidad. Espero que haya estudiantes de Chapin que hayan tenido la oportunidad de escucharte esta noche y que puedan ver en ti algo a lo que podrían aspirar y podrían llegar a ser.


¿John Adams ha superado a Thomas Jefferson y Sally Hemings?

Los primeros ocho meses de 1802 fueron afortunadamente aburridos para el presidente Jefferson. Francia e Inglaterra firmaron un tratado de paz, reabriendo los puertos europeos y caribeños al comercio estadounidense. La Armada avanzaba contra los piratas berberiscos en el Mediterráneo. Se estableció West Point. Una de las principales preocupaciones era saldar la deuda nacional. La amarga elección de 1800 se desvanecía de la memoria.

De esta historia

Thomas Jefferson y Sally Hemings: una controversia estadounidense

Contenido relacionado

Luego, en la edición del 1 de septiembre de la Grabadora RichmondJames Callender, un notorio periodista, informó que el presidente de los Estados Unidos tenía una esclava negra que le había dado varios hijos. & # 8220IT es bien sabido que el hombre, a quien le agrada honrar al pueblo, mantiene, y durante muchos años ha mantenido, como su concubina, a una de sus propias esclavas, & # 8221 comenzó la historia. & # 8220Su nombre es SALLY. & # 8221

Los periódicos federalistas de Maine a Georgia reimprimieron la historia. Se publicaron poemas racistas sobre el presidente y & # 8220Dusky Sally & # 8221 Jefferson & # 8217s. Los defensores estaban más callados, esperando en vano la negación que nunca llegó desde la Mansión Ejecutiva. El escándalo sacudió a la naciente nación.

¿Cómo fue & # 8220bien conocida & # 8221 la relación entre Jefferson y Hemings? Callender escribió que había & # 8220 una o dos veces insinuado & # 8221 en los periódicos, como de hecho fue en 1800 y 1801. Y en reacción a su desorden, el Gaceta de los Estados Unidos dijo que había & # 8220 escuchado el mismo tema libremente hablado en Virginia, y por Virginia Gentlemen & # 8221. Pero aunque los académicos han revisado las fuentes, no han identificado ninguna referencia escrita específica al enlace Jefferson-Hemings antes de la aparición de Callender & # 8217s informe escandaloso.

Creo que he encontrado dos de esas referencias. Preceden a las exposiciones por más de ocho años, y provienen de la pluma de nada menos que el viejo amigo y rival político de Jefferson, John Adams. En cartas a sus hijos Charles y John Quincy en enero de 1794, Adams señala la relación entre el sabio de Monticello y la hermosa joven conocida en la plantación como & # 8220Dashing Sally & # 8221. Las referencias han pasado desapercibidas hasta ahora porque Adams utilizó una alusión clásica cuya importancia los historiadores y biógrafos no han podido apreciar.

Las cartas de Adams ofrecen evidencia tangible de que al menos una de las principales familias políticas del país conocía la relación Jefferson-Hemings mucho antes de que estallara el escándalo. Los documentos arrojan nueva luz sobre la cuestión de la conciencia de la élite de la relación, sobre la naturaleza de la prensa en la primera república y sobre el propio Adams.

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Jefferson dimitió como secretario de estado de George Washington el último día de 1793. No había sido un buen año. His efforts to force his hated rival Alexander Hamilton out of the cabinet for financial misconduct failed miserably. Continuing to support the French Revolution despite the guillotining of the king and queen and the blossoming of the Terror, he alienated Adams and was disappointed by Washington’s proclamation of American neutrality in France’s latest war with England. At 50 years old, he was eager to return to his beloved Virginia estate to live as a gentleman farmer and philosopher.

Adams, the vice president, refused to believe that his estranged friend was really done with public life. In letters to his two eldest sons, he sourly assessed the man he was convinced would challenge him to succeed Washington as president. On January 2 he wrote to Charles:

Mr Jefferson is going to Montecello to Spend his Days in Retirement, in Rural Amusements and Philosophical Meditations—Untill the President dies or resigns, when I suppose he is to be invited from his Conversations with Egeria in the Groves, to take the Reins of the State, and conduct it forty Years in Piety and Peace.

On January 3 he wrote to John Quincy at greater length, enumerating seven possible motives for Jefferson’s resignation.

5. Ambition is the Subtlest Beast of the Intellectual and Moral Field. It is wonderfully adroit in concealing itself from its owner, I had almost said from itself. Jefferson thinks he shall by this step get a Reputation of an humble, modest, meek Man, wholly without ambition or Vanity. He may even have deceived himself into this Belief. But if a Prospect opens, The World will see and he will feel, that he is as ambitious as Oliver Cromwell though no soldier. 6. At other Moments he may meditate the gratification of his Ambition Numa was called from the Forrests to be King of Rome. And if Jefferson, after the Death or Resignation of the President should be summoned from the familiar Society of Egeria, to govern the Country forty Years in Peace and Piety, So be it.

In the vernacular of the time, “conversation” was a synonym for sexual intercourse and “familiar” was a synonym for “intimate.” The obvious candidate for the person whose conversation and familiar society Jefferson would supposedly be enjoying at his bucolic home is Sally Hemings.

But who was Egeria, and how confident can we be that Adams intended Hemings when he invoked her name?

Egeria is a figure of some importance in the mythical early history of ancient Rome. According to Livy and Plutarch, after the death of the warlike Romulus, the senators invited a pious and intellectual Sabine named Numa Pompilius to become their king. Accepting the job with some reluctance, Numa set about establishing laws and a state religion.

To persuade his unruly subjects that he had supernatural warrant for his innovations, Numa claimed that he was under the tutelage of Egeria, a divine nymph or goddess whom he would meet in a sacred grove. The stories say she was not just his instructor but also his spouse, his Sabine wife having died some years before. “Egeria is believed to have slept with Numa the just,” Ovid wrote in his Amores.

Age 40 when he became king, Numa reigned for 43 years—a golden age of peace for Rome during which, in Livy’s words, “the neighboring peoples also, who had hitherto considered that it was no city but a bivouac that had been set up in their midst, as a menace to the general peace, came to feel such reverence for them, that they thought it sacrilege to injure a nation so wholly bent upon the worship of the gods.”

Numa Pompilius converses with the nymph Egeria in a 1792 sculpture by the Danish artist Bertel Thorvaldsen. (Biblioteca del Congreso)

Adams, who was well versed in Latin and Greek literature, had every reason to feel pleased with his comparison. Like Rome at the end of Romulus’ reign, the United States was a new nation getting ready for its second leader. Jefferson would be the American Numa, a philosophical successor to the military man who had won his country’s independence. Like Numa, Jefferson was a widower (his wife, Martha, died in 1782) who would prepare himself for the job by consorting with a nymph, his second wife, in a grove that was sacred to him.

I asked Annette Gordon-Reed, the Harvard scholar and author of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, what she made of the Adams references. “While the two letters to his sons do not definitively prove that Adams knew about the Jefferson-Hemings liaison in early 1794,” Gordon-Reed said in an email, “this elucidation of the allusion to Egeria makes that an intriguing possibility.”

One didn’t require a classical education to grasp the Egeria allusion in the early 1790s. In 1786, the French writer Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian had published Numa Pompilius, Second Roi de Rome, a romantic novel dedicated to Marie Antoinette—she liked it—and intended as a guide for an enlightened monarchy in France. (“People will believe I’ve written the story / Of you, of Louis, and of the French,” Florian’s dedicatory poem declares.) Soon translated into English, Spanish and German, the novel became a runaway best seller in the North Atlantic world.

It was while researching a novel of my own about the life and afterlife of Numa and Egeria that I happened upon the allusions in the two Adams letters. As a student of religion in public life, I have long been interested in Numa as an exemplary figure in the history of Western political thought from Cicero and St. Augustine to Machiavelli and Rousseau.

In fact, John Adams had made a point of invoking Numa and his divine consort in the three-volume Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, which he published while serving as minister to Eng­land in 1787. “It was the general opinion of ancient nations, that the divinity alone was adequate to the important office of giving laws to men,” he writes in the preface. “Among the Romans, Numa was indebted for those laws which procured the prosperity of his country to his conversations with Egeria.” Later in the work he explains, “Numa was chosen, a man of peace, piety, and humanity, who had address enough to make the nobles and people believe that he was married to the goddess Egeria, and received from his celestial consort all his laws and measures.”

In the Defensa, Adams was at pains to inform the world that, unlike other nations past and present, the recently united American states “have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature.” In other words, no Egerias need apply: “It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had any interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the inspiration of heaven, any more than those at work upon ships or houses, or labouring in merchandize or agriculture: it will for ever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.”

In a 1794 letter, John Adams gossiped slyly to son Charles about Jefferson’s “Conversations with Egeria." (Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society) The second page of Adams' letter to Charles (Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society) The third page of Adams' letter to Charles (Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society) The letter written by John Adams to his son John Quincy Adams likely on January 3, 1794 (Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society) The second page of Adams' letter to his son John Quincy (Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society)

Jefferson was the American avatar of Enlightenment rationality, a staunch opponent of the government establishment of religion, and the Washington administration’s foremost advocate of war with the Barbary pirates. Adams’ portrayal of him consulting with a goddess in order to govern “in Piety and Peace” was sharply pointed on all counts. But did he intend the goddess in question to refer to Sally Hemings?

There’s good reason to think so. Seven years earlier, Jefferson had arranged for his 8-year-old daughter, Mary, to join him and his elder daughter, Martha, in Paris. Hemings, a slave who was also a half-sister of Jefferson’s late wife, accompanied Mary on the trans-Atlantic passage to England upon their arrival, the two girls went to stay with the Adamses in London. Hemings was then 14 years old but, tellingly, Abigail Adams thought she was 15 or 16.

Writing Jefferson that the two had arrived, Abigail Adams took them under her wing until an emissary showed up two weeks later to convey them to Paris, where Jefferson almost certainly began having sex with Hemings. So in 1787 John Adams had seen for himself that Jefferson had a nubile beauty in his possession. By the end of 1793, John Quincy and Charles presumably would have been aware of it, too. Otherwise, the sexual allusion to Egeria would have been lost on them.

Significantly, John Adams did not allude to the matter when he wrote to Abigail at around the same time. She and Jefferson had something of a mutual admiration society, after all. “My Love to Thomas,” she wrote her husband on the very day that Jefferson resigned as secretary of state (though she wasn’t yet aware of that). Despite the two men’s political rivalry, she maintained a high regard for Jefferson through the 1790s, describing him as a man of “probity” in a letter to her sister. So while John Adams, in Philadelphia, did not refrain from criticizing Jefferson in his January 6, 1794, letter to Abigail, in Massachusetts, he did so with care.

Jefferson went off Yesterday, and a good riddance of bad ware. I hope his Temper will be more cool and his Principles more reasonable in Retirement than they have been in office. I am almost tempted to wish he may be chosen Vice President at the next Election for there if he could do no good, he could do no harm. He has Talents I know, and Integrity I believe: but his mind is now poisoned with Passion Prejudice and Faction.

There was no mention of Numa and Egeria. As I see it, John knew that his wife would not be amused by the insinuation that Jefferson was retiring to an intimate relationship with the maidservant she had cared for in London seven years earlier. That joke was reserved for the boys.

Among the African-Americans enslaved at Monticello were up to 70 members of the Hemings family over 5 generations. (Biblioteca del Congreso) A photograph of Jefferson’s Monticello, circa 1920 (Library of Congress)

A political eon passed between the vice president’s private joke and the presidential scandal. In 1796, Jefferson was narrowly defeated for the presidency by Adams and, under Article II of the Constitution (changed in 1804), indeed became vice president, having received the second-largest number of electoral votes. Four years later, he returned the favor, besting Adams in perhaps the ugliest presidential election in American history.

By then, Callender had won his muckraking spurs by publishing the story of Alexander Hamilton’s affair with a married woman and subsequent illicit financial arrangement with the woman’s husband. Jefferson was sufficiently impressed to provide the journalist with financial support to keep up his anti-Federalist work. But in May of 1800, Callender was convicted and sentenced to nine months in prison under the Sedition Act for “The Prospect Before Us,” a tract alleging pervasive corruption in the Adams administration. After his release, he approached Jefferson and asked to be appointed postmaster of Richmond. Jefferson refused. Callender traveled to Charlottesville and ferreted out the Hemings story, published under the headline “The President, Again.”

One of the more scurrilous commentaries on the story came from John Quincy Adams. On October 5, he sent his youngest brother, Thomas Boylston, a letter with an imitation of Horace’s famous ode to a friend who had fallen in love with his servant girl that begins: “Dear Thomas, deem it no disgrace / With slaves to mend thy breed / Nor let the wench’s smutty face / Deter thee from the deed.”

In his letter John Quincy writes that he had been going through books of Horace to track down the context of a quotation when what should drop out but this poem by, of all people, Jefferson’s ideological comrade in arms Tom Paine, then living in France. John Quincy professed bafflement that “the tender tale of Sally” could have traveled across the Atlantic, and the poem back again, within just a few weeks. “But indeed,” he wrote, “Pain being so much in the philosopher’s confidence may have been acquainted with the facts earlier than the American public in general.”

Historians have assumed that John Quincy, an amateur poet, composed the imitation ode in the weeks after Callender’s revelation hit the press. But in light of his father’s letters, it is not impossible that he had written it before, as his arch little story of its discovery implied. Thomas Boylston arranged to have his brother’s poem published in the prominent Federalist magazine The Port-Folio, where it did in fact appear under Paine’s name.

The Adamses never dismissed Callender’s story as untrue. No direct comment from Abigail Adams has come to light, but Gordon-Reed argues in The Hemingses of Monticello that the scandal deepened her estrangement from Jefferson after the bitter 1800 election. When Mary Jefferson died in 1804, Abigail wrote Thomas a chilly condolence letter in which she described herself as one “who once took pleasure in subscribing herself your friend.”

John Adams, in an 1810 letter to Joseph Ward, refers to James Callender in such a way as to imply that he did not consider the Hemings story credible. “Mr Jeffersons ‘Charities’ as he calls them to Callender, are a blot in his Escutchion,” he writes. “But I believe nothing that Callender Said, any more than if it had been Said by an infernal Spirit.” In the next paragraph, however, he appears more than prepared to suspend any such disbelief.

Callender and Sally will be remembered as long as Jefferson as Blotts in his Character. The story of the latter, is a natural and almost unavoidable Consequence of that foul contagion (pox) in the human Character Negro Slavery. In the West Indies and the Southern States it has the Same Effect. A great Lady has Said She did not believe there was a Planter in Virginia who could not reckon among his Slaves a Number of his Children. But is it Sound Policy will it promote Morality, to keep up the Cry of such disgracefull Stories, now the Man is voluntarily retired from the World. The more the Subject is canvassed will not the horror of the Infamy be diminished? and this black Licentiousness be encouraged?

Adams goes on to ask whether it will serve the public good to bring up the old story of Jefferson’s attempted seduction of a friend’s wife at the age of 25, “which is acknowledged to have happened.” His concern is not with the truth of such stories but with the desirability of continuing to harp on them (now that there is no political utility in doing so). He does not reject the idea that Jefferson behaved like other Virginia planters.

Adams’ sly joke in his 1794 letters shows him as less of a prude than is often thought. It also supports Callender’s assertion that the Jefferson-Hemings relationship was “well known,” but kept under wraps. It may be time to moderate the received view that journalism in the early republic was no-holds-barred. In reality, reporters did not rush into print with scandalous accusations of sexual misconduct by public figures. Compared with today’s partisan websites and social media, they were restrained. It took a James Callender to get the ball rolling.

John Adams’ reference to Jefferson’s Egeria put him on the cusp of recognizing a new role for women in Western society. Thanks largely to Florian’s 1786 best seller, the female mentor of a politician, writer or artist came to be called his Egeria. That was the case with Napoleon, Beethoven, Mark Twain, Andrew Johnson and William Butler Yeats, to name a few. In Abigail, Adams had his own—though so far as I know she was never referred to as such. It was a halfway house on the road to women’s equality, an authoritative position for those whose social status was still subordinate.

Gordon-Reed has criticized biographers who insist that it is “ridiculous even to consider the notion that Thomas Jefferson could ever have been under the positive influence of an insignificant black slave woman.” Ironically, Adams’ sarcastic allusion conjures up the possibility. Did Sally Hemings, Jefferson’s French-speaking bedmate and well-organized keeper of his private chambers, also serve as his guide and counselor—his Egeria? The question is, from the evidence we have, unanswerable.

In the last book of his Metamorfosis, Ovid portrays Egeria as so inconsolable after the death of Numa that the goddess Diana turns her into a spring of running water. When Jefferson died in 1826, he and Hemings, like Numa and Egeria, had to all intents and purposes been married for four decades. Not long afterward, his daughter Martha freed Hemings from slavery, as her children had been freed before her.

We do not know if, as she celebrated her liberation, she also mourned her loss. But we can be confident that her name, like Egeria’s, will forever be linked with her eminent spouse, as John Adams predicted.

About Mark Silk

Mark Silk is a professor and the director of the Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College. A former reporter and editorial writer at the Atlanta Journal-Constitución, he is the author of several books on religion in contemporary America and is a senior columnist for the Religion News Service.


Sally Hemings

Nuestros editores revisarán lo que ha enviado y determinarán si deben revisar el artículo.

Sally Hemings, (born 1773, Charles City county, Virginia [U.S.]—died 1835, Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S.), American slave who was owned by U.S. Pres. Thomas Jefferson and is widely believed to have had a relationship with him that resulted in several children.

Hemings, known as Sally but who was likely named Sarah, was born into slavery to a white father, John Wayles, and his mulatto slave, Elizabeth Hemings. According to oral history passed down through the Hemings family, Elizabeth was the daughter of a white sea captain named Hemings and an African slave owned by Wayles. Sally was thus three-fourths white. When Wayles died in 1773, Elizabeth and her children were inherited by Martha Jefferson, who was Wayles’s daughter by Martha Eppes Wayles and the wife of Thomas Jefferson. The Hemings family was sent to Monticello, Jefferson’s farm and estate in Virginia, where they were given positions as house slaves.

Two years after Martha’s death in 1782, Jefferson went to France to serve as a diplomat. In 1787 he sent for his youngest daughter, Maria, who was escorted by Hemings, then 14 years old. It was during that time that an intimate relationship between Hemings and Jefferson is thought to have begun. In 1789 Jefferson and Hemings returned to the United States. She resumed her work at Monticello, and Jefferson’s records noted that, over the next two decades, she gave birth to six children. Harriet was born in 1795 but lived only two years. Hemings gave birth to a son, Beverly, in 1798 and another daughter named Harriet, in 1801. An unnamed daughter was born in 1799 but died in infancy. Hemings later had two sons, Madison and Eston, who were born in 1805 and 1808, respectively. Some have claimed that Hemings’s first child was Thomas C. Woodson, born in 1790. However, there is no evidence that Hemings had a child that year—notably, Jefferson never noted the birth—and later DNA tests revealed that he was not the father.

In Jefferson’s records from 1822, Harriet and Beverly were listed as runaways, but they actually were allowed to leave freely. Their light-coloured skin helped them blend into the white world of Washington, D.C. Madison and Eston were freed in 1826 at the time of Jefferson’s death. Hemings was not mentioned in Jefferson’s will. In 1827 she was listed as a slave on the official slave inventory of the Jefferson estate and valued at $50. It later appears that she received unofficial freedom from Jefferson’s daughter Martha, and Hemings lived the rest of her life with her sons Madison and Eston in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The first public mention of Hemings came in 1802, when The Recorder newspaper published an article by James Callender, an adversary of Jefferson, who claimed a relationship between her and Jefferson. Jefferson never responded to the allegations, which became the source of much debate and speculation. Although some of his white descendants later denied the claims—Peter Carr, a nephew of Jefferson, was often cited as the father of Hemings’s children—Hemings’s descendants argued, on the basis of oral history and an 1873 memoir by Madison Hemings, that Jefferson was the father. With conflicting and inconclusive evidence, the majority of scholars found the allegations unlikely. In 1998, however, DNA samples were gathered from living descendants of Jefferson and Hemings, and the subsequent tests revealed that Jefferson was almost certainly the father of some of Hemings’s children Carr was ruled out. Although the scholarly consensus became that Jefferson and Hemings were sexual partners, some, citing the lack of scientific certainty, continued to contest Jefferson’s paternity. (Ver “Tom and Sally”: the Jefferson-Hemings paternity debate.)

This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.


Did Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson Love Each Other?

In the years since the publication of my book Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, I have traveled throughout the United States and overseas talking about them—and life and slavery at Monticello. Writers are, in the main, solitary creatures. Or, at least, the process of writing forces us into solitude for long stretches of time I find it refreshing and gratifying to meet people who have read one’s work (or plan to) and have questions, observations, and opinions about it. In all the venues I have visited, from Houston to Stockholm, one question always arises: Did they love each other?

To call this a loaded question does not begin to do justice to the matter, given America’s tortured racial history and its haunting legacy. To be on the receiving end of that question is to be thrown into a large minefield. It is even worse for someone who is considered an expert on Hemings and Jefferson. You wrote the book about them, didn’t you?

Part of a historian’s job is to try to navigate the gap stretching between those who lived in the past and those who live today, especially pointing out the important differences. At the same time, it remains equally important to recognize and give due consideration to those points of commonality that the past the present share. While there’s truth in the old saying that the past is a foreign country, anyone visiting a foreign land also encounters many familiar sights, rituals, and behaviors, because the basic realities of the human condition remain the same.

See the essay in the June 1972 American Heritage, "The Great Jefferson Taboo" by Fawn Brody, which reignited the controversy over Jefferson and Hemings

What does this mean for Sally and Thomas, the enslaved woman and the man who owned her? Their legal relationship to one another—and the world they shared—is strange to us today. Certainly people suffer oppression today: many work for little or no pay, while countless women and children are forced into prostitution. Yet this cannot match the horrific nature of America’s racially-based chattel slavery, in which a person’s children were enslaved in perpetuity unless an owner decided to give up his or her ownership of that person. What love could exist between a man and a woman enmeshed in—and negotiation the rules of—that world? And what difference does it make if they “loved” each other? Why are members of my audience so intent on knowing that?

The question about Hemings and Jefferson, of course, does not arise from a vacuum. We modern people have a history, so to speak, with love, especially of the romantic kind. Not other human emotion excites such passionate interest and longing or gives rise to such high expectations at all levels of society. Songs tell us that “love” is “the answer” to almost everything that ails us: war, famine, disease, and racial prejudice. Love is all we need.

Indeed, I suspect that love’s supposed capacity to heal lies at the heart of people’s interest in Hemings and Jefferson. And he is the prime focus of the inquiry. My impression from talking with people and reading the letters they writing to me, not to mention the many operas, plays, screenplays, and proposals for novels they send, is that Jefferson’s love for Hemings could somehow redeem and heal him. Thomas Jefferson—in need of redemption?

As much as we admire the author of the Declaration of Independence and the two-term U.S. president, a man who doubled the size of the nation, sent Lewis and Clark west, founded the University of Virginia, championed religious freedom, and acted as an all-around renaissance man, Jefferson the slaveholder poses a great challenge. He publicly aired his suspicions that the mental capacity of blacks was inferior to whites’, not exactly as a popular believe in a society that claims (note the operative word “claims”) to find such notions completely abhorrent. For some, the knowledge that Jefferson had loved the enslaved African American woman with whom he had seven children would rescue him from the depravity of having been a slave owner who made disparaging comments about blacks—perhaps not totally exonerating him, but in some small but important way moderating the disturbing facts. That much-longed for human connection would have worked its magic.

Love, which remains extremely difficult to capture and define today or in the past, poses a major hurdle in sorting out the nature of their relationship. Speaking of love in the context of a master-slave relationship is even more difficult, given the moral and political implications. After all, the idea of “love” was used during the antebellum period and afterward as a defense of slavery. Apologists for the peculiar institution claimed that a genuine “love” existed between the races during slavery, putting the lie to northern abolitionists’ claim that the institution was evil and exploitative. Southern slaveholders often pointed to their affection for their individual “mammies” and the supposedly deep ties they formed with their enslaved playmates (of the same sex, of course) on the plantation. Significantly, they never spoke about the possibility of love and regular heterosexual relationships between males and females of mixed races. That type of love was taboo then, and it has remained discomfiting to many Americans even into the 21st century.

Then there’s the question of consent and rape. While Martha Jefferson had given her perpetual consent to sexual relations with her husband by the act of marrying him—there was no such thing as marital rape—Jefferson owned his wife’s half sister, Sally, in a completely different way. Being a man’s wife was not the same thing as being a man’s slave, even if Sally and Thomas’s relationship had begun under unusual circumstances. They became involved while Jefferson was serving as the American minister to France. Under French law, Hemings would have had a clear route to freedom had she chosen it. Instead, she agreed to return to America with him, placing herself entirely under his power. At any time, Jefferson had the right to sell her and their children if he wanted to.

White males, not just slave owners—exercised inordinate power over black women during slavery. Rape and the threat of it blighted the lives of countless enslaved women. At the same time, some black women and white men did form bonds quite different in character than from those resulting from sexual coercion. No social system can ever stamp out all the constitutive aspects of the human character. Heterosexual men and women thrown together in intimate circumstances will become attracted to one another.

Consider how Hemings and Jefferson lived at the Hôtel de Langeac in Paris between 1787 and 1789. What parents would send their pretty teenaged daughter to live in a house with a lonely, middle-aged widower whose daughters spent all week away at boarding school—and place him in charge of her well-being? Jefferson would never have allowed his daughters Patsy and Polly to live under such a situation unless a female chaperone was present. The question of appropriateness never came up with Sally Hemings, because she was a slave. Her mother, Elizabeth Hemings, had no say in the matter, just another of the countless reasons why slavery was an inhumane institution.

Suggesting that their possible feelings for one another made a difference is a romantic notion

So what do I say to people about Hemings, Jefferson, and love? I am ever mindful of the dangers of romanticizing the pair. Apologists for slavery have not all gone away, and they will fasten onto any story that appears to “soften” the harsh contours of that institution and mitigate southern slaveholder guilt. I believe, however, that saying that they may have loved each other is not romantic. Suggesting that their possible feelings for one another made a difference is a romantic notion. I am not one who believes that “love” is the answer to everything. Strong emotions that two individuals may have had cannot mitigate the problem of slavery or Jefferson’s specific role as a slave owner.

Other factors make it difficult to determine the nature of their relationship. Neither spoke publicly about it, leaving us only to draw inferences. We do know that Jefferson bargained intensely with Hemings to return to America, promising her a good life at Monticello and freedom for her children when they became adults. Was that merely in-the-moment lust? While lust can last minutes, months, or even a few years, it cannot typically span the decades during which they were involved. It simply takes more than lust to sustain an interest in another person over such an extended time period.

In addition, Jefferson had access to many other women at Monticello who could have satisfied his carnal interests. Yet, so far as the record shows, he remained fixated on Sally Hemings, arranging her life at Monticello so that she interacted with him on a daily basis for almost four decades. Despite the brutal public attention focused on the pair after James Callender exposed their relationship in 1802, Jefferson continued to have children with Hemings. Their children—James Madison, Thomas Eston, William Beverly, and Harriet—were named for people important to him. His white daughter was said to have wanted Jefferson to send Hemings and their children away so as to spare him further embarrassment. He declined.

Judging Hemings’s feelings about Jefferson proves more difficult, because she exercised no legal power over him. While she did abandon her plan to stay in France and then came home to live and have children with him, Hemings may well have had second thoughts about leaving her large and intensely connected family back home. Several of their great-grandchildren explain that Hemings returned to America because Jefferson “loved her dearly,” as if that meant something to her. Upon their return, Hemings’s relatives, both enslaved and free, behaved as if Jefferson was an in-law of sorts. After he died in 1826, Hemings left Monticello with several of Jefferson’s personal items, including pairs of his glasses, an inkwell, and shoe buckles, which she gave to her children as mementos.

While marriage is generally taken as a proof of love between a given man and woman, the quality of the relationship between couples who are not married, or cannot marry because of legal restrictions, may be better than that of men and women whose unions are recognized by law.

The most that can be said is that Hemings and Jefferson lived together over many years and had seven children, four of whom lived to adulthood. Jefferson kept his promises to Hemings, and their offspring got a four-decade head start on emancipation, making the most of it by leading prosperous and stable lives. That, I think, is about as much as one can expect from love in the context of life during American slavery.


2 thoughts on &ldquo Sally Hemmings &rdquo

I am not sure that we can say that it was outstanding for Hemings to return to the U.S. with Jefferson. I feel like it is always better to be free than enslaved and she could have had a better life had she stayed in Paris, where she would have been given greater rights. While she may have consensually entered a relationship with Jefferson, I find it puzzling that he did not free her. If he really respected her and valued her, then he wouldn’t have continued to hold her as his slave after they had been in a relationship.

I am beyond fascinated with this blog post. I find it so interesting considering that my maternal grandmother was born in France but she was forced to come to america as a teenager and married a black man so my mother and my aunts and uncles are all mixed. Also that my paternal grandmother owned slaves and my grandfather happen to be one of her family’s slaves. So this kind of hit home for me.


Children

Of the seven children born to Hemings over the next two decades, only four (five, according to Woodson&aposs descendants) lived to adulthood. Her second child, Harriet, died after only two years. Beverly (a son), born in 1798, left Monticello in 1822 and moved to Washington, D.C., where he lived as a white man. A second, unnamed daughter died in infancy. Harriet, born in 1801 and named for the first lost daughter, moved away near the same time as Beverly and also entered white society. Hemings&apos youngest children, Madison and Eston (born in 1805 and 1808,  respectively) were freed by order of Jefferson’s will in 1826. While Madison Hemings lived as a Black man (first in Virginia and later in Ohio) all his life, his brother Eston changed his name to Jefferson and began living as a white man in Wisconsin at the age of 44.

Jefferson, in fact, freed all of Hemings&apos children ironically, however, he never freed Hemings herself. After Jefferson&aposs death, she remained at Monticello for two years, after which Martha Jefferson (acting on her father&aposs wishes) gave her "her time," a form of unofficial freedom that allowed her to remain in Virginia (freed enslaved people were required by Virginia law to leave the state after a year). Before his death, Jefferson had also arranged for Madison and Eston Hemings to be allowed to stay in Virginia. After leaving Monticello, Hemings moved with her two youngest sons to nearby Charlottesville, Virginia, where she died in 1835.


Sally Hemings wasn’t Thomas Jefferson’s mistress. She was his property.


The room at Monticello where Sally Hemings is believed to have lived. (Norm Shafer/For The Washington Post)

Archaeologists at Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia plantation, Monticello, are unearthing the room where Sally Hemings is believed to have lived, allowing for a new way to tell the story of the enslaved people who served our third president. The excavation has once again reminded us that 241 years after the United States was founded, many Americans still don’t know how to reconcile one of our nation’s original sins with the story of its Founding Fathers.

Just before the Fourth of July, NBC News ran a feature on the room, setting off a spate of coverage about the dig. Many of these stories described Hemings, the mother of six children with Jefferson, as the former president’s “mistress.” The Inquisitr, the Daily Mail, AOL and Cox Media Group all used the word (though Cox later updated its wording). So did an NBC News tweet that drew scathing criticism, though its story accurately called her “the enslaved woman who, historians believe, gave birth to six of Jefferson’s children.” The Washington Post also used “mistress” in a headline and a tweet about Hemings’s room in February.

Language like that elides the true nature of their relationship, which is believed to have begun when Hemings, then 14 years old, accompanied Jefferson’s daughter to live with Jefferson, then 44, in Paris. She wasn’t Jefferson’s mistress she was his property. And he raped her.

Such revisionist history about slavery is, unfortunately, still quite common. In 2015, Texas rolled out what many saw as a “whitewashed ” version of its social studies curriculum that referred to enslaved Africans as “immigrants” and “workers” and minimized slavery’s impact on the Civil War. One concerned parent spoke out, forcing a textbook publisher to revise some of the teaching materials.

In a speech at the Democratic National Convention last year, Michelle Obama reminded Americans that no less a symbol of our government than the White House was built by those in bondage. In response, then-Fox News host Bill O’Reilly offered a softer, gentler take: Those enslaved workers were “well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government,” he said. That they had no choice in their food, lodging or whether they even wanted to do the backbreaking work of building Washington by hand was nowhere to be found in O’Reilly’s version.

That same sanitization of history happened again with the Hemings news. On Twitter, some users defended the “mistress” label, suggesting, essentially, that Jefferson and his slave may have truly loved each other. One person even went so far as to wonder whether “Hemings’s exalted wisdom and beauty compelled Jefferson’s love” and whether “she was perhaps not a victim but an agent of change?”

Jefferson could have forced Hemings into a sexual relationship no matter what she wanted, though. And it’s impossible to know what Hemings thought of Jefferson. As with many enslaved people, her thoughts, feelings and emotions were not documented. According to Monticello.org, there are only four known descriptions of the woman who first came to Jefferson’s plantation as a baby on the hip of her mother, Elizabeth Hemings, whom Jefferson also owned.

Jefferson, an avid writer, never mentioned Hemings in his work. He did, however, grapple with issues of emancipation throughout his life. In his “Notes on the State of Virginia,” Jefferson spent a substantial section attempting to answer the question, “Why not retain and incorporate the blacks into the state, and thus save the expence [sic] of supplying, by importation of white settlers, the vacancies they will leave?” Despite fathering Hemings’s children, Jefferson argued against race mixing because black people were “inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.”

Other slave-owning founders rose above the times to change their minds about the dreadful institution — including Ben Franklin, who became an outspoken abolitionist later in life, and George Washington, who freed his enslaved servants in his will. But Jefferson did no such thing. He owned 607 men, women and children at Monticello, and though some argue that he “loved” Hemings, he granted freedom to only two people while he was alive and five people in his will — and never to her.

Romanticizing Hemings and Jefferson’s so-called relationship minimizes the deadly imbalance of power that black people suffered under before the Civil War. It also obscures our collective history as a nation that moved from being built on the blood, bones and backs of enslaved African Americans and indigenous people, to being the imperfect, hopeful and yet still unequal country we are today.


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