After being accepted at the University of Virginia, Jacqueline Yurkoski came to Charlottesville with her parents and agreed to answer some questions about how a Sally Hemings descendant of the younger generation feels about her ancestry. She looks forward to a career in medicine.
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Tagged with “Oral History Transmission”
Ellen Dammond, who was a social worker and personnel supervisor, was descended from both the Fossetts of Monticello and the famous fugitive slaves William and Ellen Craft. The prominent equal rights activist William Monroe Trotter was her uncle. She felt strongly about preserving and passing on the history of the struggles for freedom and equality, and introduced a 1970s film on the Crafts. Both she and her daughter, Peggy Preacely, were active participants in the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
Ann Pettiford Medley grew up in Greenfield, Ohio. She and her husband, Cecil Medley, raised five children and worked in the catering and food services field. It was her daughter Patti Jo Harding who began to research the family history and enlisted the help of her cousin Diana Redman and Getting Word consultant Beverly Gray. Mother and daughter were present at Getting Word’s first interview in Chillicothe in 1993. Ann Medley remembers Sunday visits to her grandmother Anna Young Pettiford, some of whose siblings passed into the white world, cutting ties with the family.
Jane Floyd was born in St. Louis but spent summers at the Selma, Ohio, farm of her maternal grandparents, John Penn and Barbara Ann Woodson. She first learned of her lineage when she shared her elopement plans with her mother, Jane Ann Woodson Gordon (1890–1972). “That’s how she happened to tell me about being descended from Thomas Jefferson.”
Martha Boston, who carried on the Hern/Hearns family tradition of a belief in the importance of education, was the youngest of eight children of Bernard Clinton Hearns and Clara Jones Hearns. Her father, “a very progressive man” in her eyes, worked on the railroad to save money to buy the family farm. Her mother, “seeking the best for her children,” sent her as a child to Baltimore to live with a sister, so she would have the opportunity for better schooling.
Jillian Sim, a writer and mother of two, was raised in the white world. Her grandmother, Ellen Love, an actress, told her many family stories heard from her mother, Anita Hemmings Love. She mentioned connections to Jefferson and an English sea captain, but never spoke of descent from enslaved people. Jill Sim learned of her African American ancestry only after her grandmother’s death in 1994.
Ray Malone was a software developer, after a career in broadcasting, and owner of radio stations. His ancestors, of Irish origin, arrived in the Chillicothe, OH, area in the early nineteenth century and were farmers in Ross County. From his uncle and grandfather, Malone heard stories about Madison Hemings that had come through his great-great-uncle Benjamin Malone, Hemings’s neighbor.
Zeta Brown Nichols grew up in Keswick, just east of Charlottesville. She shared memories of life in the area in the 1940s and 50s. Like many others in the Hern family, she became a teacher, initially in a one-room schoolhouse in western Albemarle County and later at Albemarle Training School. She learned of her connection to Monticello from her aunt Martha Hearns Boston, also a teacher.
Maxcine Sterling and four other descendants of Monticello gatekeeper Eliza Tolliver Coleman were interviewed together in 1995. All live in the Washington, DC, area and work (or worked) in various departments of the federal government. They shared their memories of Eliza Coleman’s daughters Lucy Coleman Barnaby Page and Grace Coleman Harris and recalled summers spent at the Monticello gatehouse. Members of the extended Coleman family lived at Monticello for more than a century—far longer than any of the property’s owners.