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Sally Hemings

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Sally Hemings listed with her children in Jefferson's bread distribution list, Feb. 1810
Farm Book, page 134, Massachusetts Historical Society

 

Sally Hemings listed with her children in Jefferson's Farm Book, Feb. 1810
Massachusetts Historical Society

Dates alive: 
1773–1835
Occupation: 
Lady’s-maid; Household servant

Sally Hemings came to Monticello as an infant as part of Jefferson’s inheritance from his father-in-law, John Wayles. She spent two years as lady’s-maid to Jefferson’s daughters in Paris, where she could have claimed her freedom. After returning to Monticello in 1789, she was a domestic servant in the main house. She was unofficially freed after Jefferson’s death in 1826 and lived with her sons Madison and Eston in Charlottesville until her own death.

Years after his wife’s death, Thomas Jefferson fathered at least six of Sally Hemings’s children. Four survived to adulthood and are mentioned in Jefferson’s plantation records:  Beverly, Harriet, Madison, and Eston Hemings. According to her son Madison Hemings, Jefferson promised Sally Hemings in Paris to free any children they might have at the age of twenty-one. Four of their children reached adulthood and became free close to their twenty-first birthdays. Beverly Hemings and his sister Harriet Hemings were allowed to leave Monticello without pursuit and passed into white society. Madison Hemings and Eston Hemings Jefferson—freed by the terms of Jefferson’s will—left for Ohio in the 1830s and chose to live on different sides of the color line.

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    The Jefferson-Hemings Controversy

    Read the 2000 Report of the Monticello Research Committee on Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson and other material related to the controversy.

     

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