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Nance Hemings

1761–post 1827
Enslaved Workers

Massachusetts Historical Society

Nance Hemings, the third daughter of Elizabeth Hemings, worked as a weaver.  Jefferson inherited her in 1774 from his father-in-law, John Wayles.  When head weaver Bartholomew Kindred came to Monticello in 1776, he supervised and trained Hemings in his craft until his departure in 1783. In 1785, Jefferson gave Hemings and her young children, Billy and Critta, to his sister, Anna Scott Jefferson Marks, as a wedding present.  But in 1795 Jefferson was “in want of a weaver,” and so wished to purchase “a woman of the name of Nance,” back from Hastings Marks. Jefferson paid £60 for Hemings, but did not buy either of her children. Jefferson’s son-in-law Thomas Mann Randolph, however, bought Critta for £70. Hemings likely worked in the converted textile workshop.  In her spare time, she raised chickens to sell to the Jefferson household; Mary Randolph noted that she bought, “9 chickens & 6 doz eggs from Nance” in 1826.  Because the “Woman Nance” was deemed “Worth nothing” when Jefferson’s estate was auctioned off in 1827, she passed into the hands of Thomas Mann Randolph.

This account is compiled from Lucia Stanton, “Those Who Labor for My Happiness:” Slavery at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello (University of Virginia Press and Thomas Jefferson Foundation, 2012).

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Explore the workmen’s house, a structure that served as a dwelling and textile workshop during Jefferson’s lifetime.

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