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.
You are here
Tagged with “Racial Identity”
In the words of a descendant, Eliza Tolliver Coleman lived “up on the mountain all of her life.” Members of her extended family lived and worked at Monticello over the course of a century—far longer than any of the property’s owners. According to family tradition, Eliza Coleman “came out of that Thomas Jefferson tree,” but her exact connection to Monticello’s enslaved families is not yet known. She married Thomas Coleman (1845-post 1910), a former slave of Joel Wheeler, manager of Monticello during and after the Civil War. They had eight children.
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.
Patti Jo Harding became the family historian and, with the help of her cousin Diana Redman and Getting Word consultant, Beverly Gray, has been gathering information from courthouses and graveyards to understand the rich history of her family. She was present at the very first Getting Word interview, with other members of her family. She said, “Everybody keeps talking about Thomas Jefferson, … but I'd like to find out more about Sally.”
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.
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.
Peggy Preacely, a writer, filmmaker, and public health worker, learned her family history from her mother, Ellen Craft Dammond, the “griot of the family,” who recognized that “there were wonderful stories that needed to be kept alive in the family.” Her mother was a niece of William Monroe Trotter as well as a descendant of the famous fugitive slaves William and Ellen Craft.
Artist, businesswoman, and mother of four, Julia Westerinen did not learn of her connection to Monticello and her African American ancestry until the 1970s. After genetic testing in 1998 established a link between her family line and Jefferson's, she went on the Oprah Winfrey show and met Shay Banks-Young, a descendant of Madison Hemings, brother of her ancestor Eston Hemings Jefferson.
Shay Banks-Young was a radio and TV personality and poet in Columbus, Ohio. After genetic testing in 1998 established a connection between Madison Hemings's brother Eston and Thomas Jefferson, she went on the Oprah Winfrey show and met Eston's descendant Julia Jefferson Westerinen. Following that encounter, Banks-Young and Westerinen brought a discussion of racial issues, titled “A Conversation in Black and White,” to audiences around the country.