Coraline Franklin Cooke

Coraline Franklin Cooke is the first descendant of a Monticello slave known to graduate from college and became a college teacher herself.

Frederick Madison Roberts

Descended from Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson, Roberts was the first Black member of the California State Assembly, a school administrator, and journalist.

John Hemmings

John Hemmings was a skilled joiner (fine wood worker) who was literate and often wrote letters to Thomas Jefferson and other members of the Jefferson family while working on construction of Jefferson's second home, Poplar Forest.


Hannah's surname is lost to history, but a surviving letter to Thomas Jefferson demonstrates her abilities as the only known literate female enslaved worker on Jefferson's plantations.

James Hemings

James Hemings was an enslaved chef who was literate and traveled to France with Thomas Jefferson. While there, he paid for lessons from a French tutor to learn the language.

Israel Gillette Jefferson

Born into slavery at Monticello, Israel Gillette Jefferson said that he considered "what education I have as a legitimate fruit of freedom." Learn more about his life and read his memoirs about growing up in slavery and later achieving freedom.