Presidents’ Day – Sally Hemings
Presidents’ Day is held in February to primarily commemorate the birthday of George Washington, among other presidents with February birthdates. We are celebrating Sally Hemings for Presidents’ Day. The following information regarding Sally Hemings and President Thomas Jefferson is from Wikipedia.
Sarah “Sally” Hemings (c. 1773 – 1835) was an enslaved woman of mixed race owned by President Thomas Jefferson. Most historians believe she was the mother of six children fathered by him,[1 of whom four survived to adulthood; and were given freedom by Jefferson. Hemings was the youngest of six siblings by the widowed planter John Wayles and his mixed-race slave Betty Hemings; Sally and her siblings were three-quarters European and half-siblings of Jefferson’s wife, Martha Wayles Skelton.
In 1787, Hemings, aged 14, accompanied Jefferson’s youngest daughter Mary (“Polly”) to London and then to Paris, where the widowed Jefferson, aged 44 at the time, was serving as the United States Minister to France. Hemings spent two years there. It is believed by most historians that Jefferson began a sexual relationship with Hemings in France or soon after their return to Monticello. Hemings was a slave in Jefferson’s house until his death.
The historical question of whether Jefferson was the father of Hemings’ children is known as the Jefferson–Hemings controversy. Following renewed historic analysis in the late 20th century and a 1998 DNA study that found a match between the Jefferson male line and a descendant of Hemings’ last son, Eston Hemings, there is a near-consensus among historians that the widower Jefferson fathered her son Eston Hemings and probably all her children. A small number of historians disagree.
Hemings’ children lived in Jefferson’s house as slaves and were trained as artisans. Jefferson freed all of Hemings’ surviving children: Beverly, Harriet, Madison, and Eston, as they came of age (they were the only slave family freed by Jefferson). They were seven-eighths European in ancestry, and three of the four entered white society as adults. Descendants of those three identified as white. Hemings was “given her time,” lived her last nine years freely with her two younger sons in Charlottesville, Virginia, and saw a grandchild born in the house her sons owned.