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Priscilla Hemmings

Enslaved Workers

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.

"I remember the interior of that cabin" - Finding a Lost Diary

Curator Emilie Johnson tells the story of finding a forgotten diary that contains a description of the interior of John and Priscilla Hemmings's dwelling at Monticello.

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