You are here

Priscilla Hemmings

ca.1776–1830
Female
Enslaved Workers
Work: 
Nursemaid

Priscilla Hemmings, the wife of the joiner John Hemmings, belonged to Jefferson’s daughter and son-in-law, Martha and Thomas Mann Randolph; she was the nursemaid for the Randolphs' many children. From 1790 until 1809 she lived with them at their Edgehill plantation, about three miles away from Monticello where John worked.  From 1809, when the Randolphs moved to Monticello permanently, she was able to live with her husband.  Hemmings apparently made two trips to Washington with Martha Randolph and her children in 1802 and 1806.  Overseer Edmund Bacon recalled: “She took charge of all the children that were not in school.  If there was any switching to be done, she always did it.  She used to be down at my house a great deal with those children ...  They were very much attached to their nurse.  They always called her ‘Mammy.’”  John and Priscilla were both religious.  John read the bible to his wife and they were known to hold prayer meetings in their house on Mulberry Row.  John Hemmings made her gravestone and mourned her loss.  They had no children.

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).

See a digital model and animation of single–family slave dwellings on Mulberry Row.

Jefferson: Slavery at Monticello

Enslaved Families of Monticello

Discover the history of six enslaved families who lived and worked at Monticello.  Visit our exhibition in partnership with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Related People: 

Participate

Login or register to participate in our online community.