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Slaves Who Gained Freedom
A number of the enslaved community at Monticello gained their freedom by various methods. During his lifetime, Jefferson freed two enslaved men. At his death, Jefferson bequeathed freedom to five men in his will. At least three other slaves were unofficially freed when Beverly Hemings, Harriet Hemings, and James Hemings, (son of Critta Hemings Bowles) were allowed to leave Monticello without pursuit. Still others successfully escaped despite pursuit.
All ten freed with Jefferson's consent were members of the Hemings family; the seven he officially freed were all skilled tradesmen. About 200 slaves were sold at estate sales after Jefferson's death.
Freed by Jefferson during his lifetime
Freed in Jefferson's will (1826-1827)
- Joseph Fossett (1780-1858)
- Burwell Colbert (1783-1850+)
- Madison Hemings (1805-1856)
- John Hemmings (1776-1833)
- Eston Hemings (1808-1856)
Left Monticello, with Jefferson's tacit consent
- James Hemings (son of Critta Hemings Bowles, 1787-?) - left Monticello in 1805
- Beverly Hemings (1798-1822+) - left Monticello in 1822
- Harriet Hemings (1801-1822+) - left Monticello in 1822
Others who gained freedom after leaving Monticello
(Please note that this list does not include those who gained their freedom through the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865.)
- Brown Colbert - freed in order to remove to Liberia
- Mary Colbert - freedom purchased by her family members
- Melinda Colbert - apparently freed by John Wayles Eppes
- Edith Hern Fossett, Ann-Elizabeth Fossett Isaacs (1812-1902), Peter Fossett (1815-1901), William Fossett, and Daniel Fossett - purchased and freed by Joseph Fossett and his family members
- Isabella Fossett - ran away
- Patsy Fossett - ran away in 1827, and was living free in Cincinnati by the time of the 1850 Census
- John Freeman - sold to James Madison and later freed
- Peter Hemings (1770-1834+) - sold to a family member and freed.
- Sally Hemings - probably "given her time" by Thomas Jefferson's family after his death
- Wormley Hughes - "given his time" by Thomas Jefferson's family after Jefferson's death
- Israel Gillette Jefferson - purchased his own freedom with the aid of his wife
Lucia Stanton, 3/3/99
- Stanton, Free Some Day.
- Thomas Jefferson Foundation. Getting Word. "The Struggle for Freedom."
- Thomas Jefferson Foundation. The Monticello Classroom. "Monticello Slaves Who Gained Freedom." A version of the above article written for elementary and middle-school reading levels.
- Thomas Jefferson Foundation. Plantation Database. http://plantationdb.monticello.org/nMonticello.html
- Look for sources in the Thomas Jefferson Portal