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Slaves Who Gained Freedom

Several members of the enslaved community at Monticello became free men and women. Freedom from slavery could be granted, purchased, or earned by means of escape. A slave who was "given his time" achieved an "unofficial" freedom.

Thomas Jefferson granted freedom to seven enslaved men. Two men were freed during Jefferson's lifetime and five were freed by the terms of Jefferson's will. All seven were skilled tradesmen, ideally capable of finding employment as freed men.

During Jefferson's lifetime, three enslaved members of the Hemings family were allowed to leave Monticello without pursuit. No known records document the departure of other slaves without pursuit. Additionally, some slaves successfully escaped from Monticello despite pursuit.

About 200 slaves were sold at estate sales after Jefferson's death. Some of the slaves sold from Monticello eventually acquired freedom.

The lists below provide the names of enslaved members of the Monticello community who are known to have achieved freedom. The dates of the person's life span are provided where available.

Freed by Jefferson during his lifetime

Freed in Jefferson's will (1826-1827)

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 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 Jefferson's  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

Further Sources

Related Links:
The Struggle for Freedom


slimmodel's picture
Jamey Hemings ran away after being beaten severely by an overseer. Critta's son by Jefferson's nephew Peter Carr.
slimmodel's picture
James Hemings was freed because of his sister to cover up the crime in Paris. Jefferson involving himself with a teenage girl. James would have talked and so Jefferson had no choice but to free him. Her mother was so hurt to have her daughter come back as a slave. The plan was for her to be free in Paris like James. It is so sad that Sally spent thirty-eight years of servitude for nothing because of Jefferson's selfishness.
slimmodel's picture
Sally was given her freedom because she was the mother of Jefferson's children that was a given. Jefferson was not going to sell his family off. His in laws which are the Hemings family was always safe and secure. Do to the fact that they were part white and not totally black. Slavery at its most debased and Jefferson was totally in agreement with this type of society.
slimmodel's picture
Is it true that Jefferson's son-in-law John Wayles Eppes (Jack) had children by Sally Hemings' neice Betsy Hemmings at least two children a boy and a girl. This son in law was married to Jefferson's daughter Maria and a had three children but only one son survived by the Francis Eppes. The family tree is full incest. It is no wonder that nobody came out deformed or seriously mentally ill. Today all of this mixing would be unheard of.


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