Monticello Is Done Avoiding Jefferson’s Relationship With Sally Hemings

A new exhibit grapples with the reality of slavery and deals a final blow to two centuries of ignoring or covering up what amounted to an open secret.

Comments: 236

  1. Overdue to say the least. But I applaud the museum staff at Monticello for bringing this exhibit to light. Let's hope more historic museums endeavor to give a more truthful and complete picture of the past, particularly when it comes to telling the stories about our "founding fathers."

  2. This is happening other places. I visited Mount Vernon 6 years in a row with my 8th grade students. The first year, the words "slave" or enslaved people" was not in use. They literally referred to the "servants quarters." It got better every year. Today, students emerge with a better understanding of reality. There is a memorial marking the burying ground of the people who were enslaved there. There are historical interpreters who play the parts of particular enslaved people. The stories they tell are compelling and push the kids to understand. (I'm not sure how I feel about a young, African-American woman who probably has a MA in history having to dress up in homespun and mob cap to do this important work.)

  3. The “house tour” is being phased out? It was fascinating to experience the isolated frontier location of this home contrasted with its sophisticated beauty and the truly remarkable accomplishments of Thomas Jefferson. It’s noteworthy that odds are he fathered the Hemmings children (though certainty would be better), but telling of our times that the public prefers the salacious to the uplifting. Inspiration is a tough sell these days, but I’m sorry the museum staff has opted to focus on the TMZ version. I hope there is a balance with Jefferson’s history-changing life.

  4. i appreciate that we had TJ and Sally they are part of us. I really like Sally and her kids, Tom's prodigy.

  5. White-washing history is unjust and ingoring facts is dangerous. Enslaved women could not choose her sexual partners. Furthermore, Hemmings was 14 and Jefferson 44 when their sexual relationship began. This will never be romantized in my eyes, regardless of those who choose to regard these facts a minor salicious footnotes of a "great" man.

  6. I agree about the house tour. Though I welcome these slavery exhibits, I don't see why the house tour can't exist as well. It shows part of the history of the plantation, too.

  7. We would all like this to be a love story, wouldn't we? That would feel good. But he owned her. And he started having sex with her when she was as young as 14. That's not a relationship. At best it's grooming. And many of us consider it rape.

  8. Plus, she was the half-sister of his wife Martha. Any way you look at it, it's pretty weird.

  9. Keep in mind: Why did he ask her to go back to Virginia with him? Because he had no other sex-object available to him? Clearly not. Why did she choose to go back with him - trusting him literally with her life, and the lives of her children? France was hospitable to free persons of color at the time; few doors were closed. She could have stayed and become anything; and she knew it. The choice to become a "concubine", in Madison Heming's words, was not an unusual one then; and no disgrace for a woman born a slave. Will we ever know? Unlikely. But the facts support the "love story" at least as much as any other scenario. And if you think 14 was outrageous - at the time - you need to do a little more reading.

  10. How whites enjoy sanitizing history of our forefathers to imagine Sally & TJ along with Pocahontas & John Smith in romantic relationships. Absolutely galling! RAPE is not consensual!!!

  11. When I moved to Charlottesville in the mid-90s, I was shocked at the "Cult of Jefferson," and how some people abjectly refused to acknowledge his slaveholding. Monticello did discuss slavery then. This level of honesty about Jefferson adds nuance and complexity to the history of an astounding statesman. It does not diminish his words or accomplishments. Discussion of his moral frailties, humanity, contradictions - these serve to educate us about our country's and history's same troubles. They should not be glossed over or ignored, nor do they destroy our past. In fact, they layer it with the complexity that still exists in American society. But never overlook the power of the cult to deny the reality of their hero.

  12. The tour I took in 2003 featured an explicit stop at slave quarters and a talk about Sally Hemings. Maybe I just had a cool tour guide, though.

  13. CS, it requires much more than a "cool tour guide," or a "stop" at slave quarters or a "talk" about Sally Hemings. Your comment is a perfect reflection of the cluelessness of whites. African American slaves made Monticello possible. They WERE Monticello. They aren't a footnote to history; they're THE STORY.

  14. In the broad and long history of hypocrisy, there is no example more discreditable than Thomas Jefferson. A highly educated, cultured, well-traveled man, his reputation cannot be saved by the (always unsatisfactory) defence that while slavery is evil, its 18th century practitioners should be excused because they didn't know any better. Jefferson penned some of the most stirring words in defence of liberty ever written, especially in the early drafts of the Declaration of Independence. But out of the other side of his mouth he congratulated himself on the profits he made from selling enslaved human beings. Enslaving people for forced labour has always been evil. But selling enslaved people for profit -- deliberately breaking up families for greed -- is even worse. Most disgusting of all, he raised and sold human beings not to provide a reasonable livelihood for himself but to live in ducal splendor . In other words he debased fellow humans merely to aggrandize himself. The ideal of Jeffersonian democracy is a free country where all are free to earn dignity and a living through their own efforts. But Jefferson denied his slaves the produce of their labour, and their dignity, while setting himself up in a dignity that he did not earn. None of Jefferson's many achievements counterbalance the deep evil and hypocrisy of his conduct as a slave holder. Jefferson is a perfect symbol for America's very conflicted history with liberty and race.

  15. don't forget that blacks were counted as "3/5ths" people

  16. Jefferson wanted to oppose slavery and he used a surrogate to introduce into the Virginia legislature a proposal to begin that process; it was a trial balloon, a tactic many politicians use when considering supporting a position that might be so unpopular that their own political future might be blocked. Virginia's slave-owning aristocracy was unable to rise to his level of concern and change, and Jefferson never again tried, publicly, to oppose an institution so entrenched that it took oceans of blood to end two generations later. I believe he loved Sally and his children he had with her. Thanks to DNA many of us who have identified as white with some native American heritage and ancestry are finding out that we are also as much West African as Native, or 1/32 of both. Not all sexual contact between races was rape; love conquers all barriers.

  17. According to Peeking thru the Fence.. "In the broad and long history of hypocrisy, there is no example more discreditable than Thomas Jefferson." Surprising statement, especially when there is a current, much more discreditable example, in our faces, for all both in Canada and here in the U.S. to see every day.

  18. In the mid 1980s, I toured Monticello with my children. I asked the lady conducting the tour where Sally Hemmings would have lived. She did not answer, turned her back to me, and refused to answer any of my questions for the remainder of the tour. In the 1990s, I moved to Charlottesville about 3 miles from Monticello. When we toured the house then, at least they were not going to turn their back on you, but they said that there was no research being done. Shortly after that, it started to change and articles appeared in the paper about archeology at Mulberry Row, the slave quarters. I find Jefferson an interesting man, but not one I would have approved of even then. He wrote that slavery was wrong, but held slaves. He wrote that it was immoral not to pay workmen and yet he did not pay some of the people, not slaves, who worked on building Monticello. He seems to me an intelligent man who knew how he should behave, but could not control himself.

  19. I too toured Monticello in the '80s with my children, and I think we must have had the same docent. She clearly thought I asked too many questions. I asked how, as a large man, he slept in such a short bed. She condescendingly told me that he slept propped up on pillows. I found that interesting, and thought it should have been part of her lecture. After asking a couple of other questions about fireplace tiles, etc., she chose to ignore me. I wish I could have gotten the questions you attempted.

  20. "He seems to me an intelligent man who knew how he should behave, but could not control himself. " History is filled with such men, although it could be debated whether they could not, or would not, control themselves.

  21. Professor Gordon-Reed’s books about the Hemings family and Thomas Jefferson are great reading. Just a couple of thoughts: Sally was the best looking woman around and was known as “Dashing Sally”. Jefferson basically picked the prettiest as powerful men often do. However, she was also his dead wife’s sister and I’m sure he loved Sally for more than her looks. My opinion is that at whatever time in human history, if you are with someone for 40 years, you are for all intents and purposes married. I consider Sally Hemings to be the second Mrs. Jefferson.

  22. Given his behavior Paris--this should surprise no one. But, when it comes to matters of "the loins", all else falls away. The matters of the heart often come later and politics even after. History is replete with such examples.

  23. Knowing women as we think we do when it comes to choosing mates, I'm guessing -- assuming Jefferson is the man of virtue we assume he is -- odds are she "basically picked" him.

  24. Even today marriage is a legal connection defined by law and not by personal feelings from outsiders.

  25. The work being done at Monticello is first rate, and finally we see a shift in the narrative--it's about time.

  26. In the year 2000, after an exhaustive inquiry which included extensive DNA testing Monticello published its conclusion that Thomas Jefferson was the father of Sally Hemming's children. https://www.monticello.org/site/plantation-and-slavery/ii-assessment-dna...

  27. Not all that new: In the year 2000, after an exhaustive inquiry which included extensive DNA testing Monticello published its conclusion that Thomas Jefferson was the father of Sally Hemming's children. https://www.monticello.org/site/plantation-and-slavery/ii-assessment-dna...

  28. About time. Deeds, not words, define a human. When Jefferson wrote, "all men are created equal", he may have consciously believed those words but his subconscious, developed and formed fully on a plantation in a white man's world, may not have been completely on board with that. On the other hand, was he really implying that all white landowners are created equal, that a Virginia slave owner was the same as a British slave owner? We will never know which of these two possibilities is more true. But either way, it speaks volumes about us. Are we ready to learn from it?

  29. When attempting to discern what TJ meant in those memorable words, shouldn't one keep in mind that he penned them at a time when scriptural fiat flaunted considerably more cachet than it does in our time? Accordingly, by God's supreme injunction, duly recorded in the 3rd book of the Pentateuch/Torah, He granted His chosen subjects--those who willingly became His subjects and hewed to obeying His laws--the liberty of acquiring slaves from among the "heathen"--those who didn't acclaim Him their lord and sovereign, and keep His commandments. Since they didn't accept Him as their lord and sovereign, the heathen could not be considered "men," because that status was accorded only to those accepted God as their lord and sovereign. Hence TJ likely penned that famous quip with nary a second thought about the status of the enslaved heathen who maintained the stately ambience of his bucolic hilltop Parnassus. For they couldn't possibly be "men." What's more, wasn't their other than "manly" condition subsequently buttressed by the Constitution's "federal ratio" and Mr. Chief Justice Tawney's majority decision in the matter of Dred Scott against Sandford?

  30. Obviously Jefferson was referring only to white males who owned property. That's what he meant by "all men."

  31. One thing is clear, all "men" did not include women. We are still living with that constitutional flaw.

  32. I was last at Monticello in August after having been several times in my youth. We took the "house tour" whose narrative emphasized Jefferson's design genius in reducing the need for manual labor (i.e. slaves), so as not to make Jefferson's guests uncomfortable with his blinding hypocrisy. Also, I am of the opinion that if a woman has no right to turn down relations, then that is assault.

  33. I just visited Monticello two weeks ago and took the opportunity (offered for free multiple times a day) to have a very informative hour-long tour focused specifically in the topic of slavery at Monticello. The specific exhibit described in this article was not yet open, but the tour gave lots of information about Sally Hemmings, her biographical details, her enslavement, Jefferson’s paternity, etc. in addition to general information about the lives of the different types of enslaved people at Monticello. The guide was extremely well informed and engaging and really brought this aspect of history to life. Should you return to Monticello, I highly recommend this tour.

  34. You are entirely right. Not to minimize the horrors of slavery, but no woman had the right to turn down relations at that time and place.White women, however, were not slaves, so could leave their husbands--who got to keep the children.

  35. Yes, of course she had no recourse. She was enslaved. At the same time, Sally Hemings probably closely resembled Martha Jefferson, her half-sister. And of course she would have been well aware of all of the family relationships involved, as well as the obligation to keep those relationshps hidden from public scrutiny. What a mess. Imagine trying to live through that.

  36. Maybe someday this nation will quit playing,"pretendsies," about how moral and fair we were and are. Maybe someday we'll quit treating our so-called founding fathers with uxorious admiration and call them what they were, slaveholding industrialist who wanted it all for themselves. Maybe, we'll quit romanticizing the Constitution and create effective governance. Maybe. But I doubt it.

  37. This is long past due and I am pleased how thoughtfully these curators have brought forth the exhibit. Jefferson’s contradictions are in America’s DNA. That he might have cared for Hemings, his beloved dead wife’s half sister should be considered as seriously as the fraught consequences of fathering children with someone he owned. No doubt that If Hemings were alive today she would be saying “Me too.”

  38. american history, being told in full and truthfully. overdue.

  39. At this rate they'll want to change the name to Sally Hemings Monticello. Revisionist history at its worst. Would you have us forget about our 3rd President entirely except for his slave ownership?

  40. We need to go one step more: stop calling these institutions “plantations.” They were either “forced labor camps” or, better, “slave labor camps.” After all, their economic output went way beyond agricultural commodities that the label “plantation” suggests.

  41. jdxliff: Seriously? Because a more nuanced and accurate truth is being told it's problematic and somehow revisionist? No one is suggesting we forget about his accomplishments but we can look at the larger picture which wasn't as heroic. That's not 'revising,' that's being more honest.

  42. One of the stories about Hemings that makes me saddest is the letter from Abigail Adams, who met Sally in England on her way to France and seemed to think that Sally (who had been sent as a kind of servant/nanny for Jefferson's daughter, who was about 9) was too naive and childish to be a good caretaker. Abigail suggested they send Sally home and send a more mature nurse. Sally was 14 at the time. Sally was pregnant by Thomas Jefferson only a few months later. Whatever we do, let's not talk about Sally Hemings and Jefferson as if it is some kind of glorious romance. Scratch the surface and everything about her story is sad -- including Jefferson's promise that Sally's children would grow up free. (They didn't.) A similar figure is Sacagawea, basically sold into marriage at 14 to a man she didn't know and pregnant by 15, who then was forced by her husband onto the Lewis and Clark expedition with her 2-month-old child. Let's tell these stories, yes. Let's not romanticize them.

  43. One difference between Sacajawea and Sally Hemmings is that she rightfully went down in history as a heroine, while Sally Hemmings was deliberately erased. Her master on the other hand, became a demigod.

  44. Some of the members of the Hemings family gained their freedom upon Jefferson's death, but the remaining families - the Gillettes, the Herns, the Fossetts and the Grangers - who had built and run Monticello and served the Jefferson family for over 60 years - were sold on the public auction block after Jefferson's death.

  45. i didnt know she was 14 at the time. I thought she was older. that makes it way more gross.

  46. Since we don't have Sally Hemmings account of the relationship I don't think we can call it rape. Jefferson himself would never acknowledge rape, would he? Let's not call it rape but clearly it was within the definition of the master/slave relationship and clearly Hemmings acknowledged him as her master but rape? Not likely.

  47. "within the definition of the master/slave relationship" And within that relationship, women were generally not allowed to say no to their master. So, yes, rape.

  48. @Stephen Kurtz RE: "Jefferson himself would never acknowledge rape, would he?" Sorry, Stephen, the days are done when rapists define what rape is. Sally was about 14-16 years old. That's considered statutory rape these days. But wait, you may say, Sally was a slave. And I say to you, Yes, exactly. Not only was she too young to consent, she was a slave, unable not to consent.

  49. Anne, to definitively call it rape means that you must know all the facts of the situation. And you don't. Yes, Sally Hemings was a slave. Yes, she had the first of his children when she was fourteen or fifteen, but many women bore children at that age in the eighteenth century. Though we object to slavery in the most unequivocal moral terms, we cannot judge this relationship without a historical record that simply is not available. Perhaps there was intimacy, tenderness and mutual caring. Perhaps not. Perhaps it was a blunt transactional exchange: sex, for unusual privileges for a slave woman and freedom for her children. We simply do not know.

  50. I cannot help but wonder what the internal struggle must have been for Jefferson when I take the time to ponder the times he lived in. The fact she lived openly with him here and in Paris suggests he was trying in some way to make a statement. Since slavery was not yet illegal offering her extraordinary privileges and freedom for any children she might have may have been the best he could do. And for their times, they may well have been as deeply in love as was allowed. And to that I say BRAVO!! Even in 2018 here in the states we have families who struggle with the fear of being ostracized, by family, friends, community should they marry outside their race, religion, ethnic group. And in other countries its worse because honour killings are still, contrary to what governments say, legal.

  51. spot on with this assessment of the issue.

  52. He was a white man, a landowner and slave owner, a full human being. He could do whatever wanted - openly.

  53. I'm very happy that we've entered a period in our history where an open discussion of slavery and of unequal treatment of women is possible. However, I fear there are many among us who'd like nothing more than to snuff out this new enlightened age. They are the folks who regard the loss of the civil war as a temporary setback.

  54. We need Sherman back.

  55. People, even "great" and "enlightened," are complex and imperfect. This history doesn't diminish Jefferson for me; but, I understand some having difficulty with it. The notion that he doesn't seem the sort of person who would do something like this, though, is troubling. Who exactly is the "type?"

  56. As a descendent of Thomas Jefferson's uncle and some other slaveowners on my grandfather's side, I think it is past time to face up to what those "aristocrats" did. Why should we idolize them when we look around ourselves everyday and see that the norm for humans is to give into temptation sometimes, learn from it, maybe, try to avoid it, give into it again, feel shame, feel guilt, feel resentment, act out our feelings? To say that Thomas Jefferson was human is not to excuse him, it is to take the burden of his wrongs as our own and to work toward a society that is more equitable toward African Americans, women, people of lower economic classes, people with disabilities. To say that people like my Jefferson ancestors were some kind of saints is to remain unconnected, detached, thoughtless.

  57. Beautifully said, Ms. Smiley. Thank you.

  58. Yes, no human is all good or all bad. Jefferson was brilliant but also used his power and place in society for self-gratification, as many men do (Weinstein, anyone?). The truly sad thing is that there are people being traded and used as slaves right now, in 2018.

  59. When my family visited Colonial Williamsburg in the 1960s, my mother embarrassed me by asking the costumed guides where the slave quarters were. I was mortified, but her comment opened my eyes to the truth about historic sites that whitewash the past. When I visited Monticello with my own children years later, they were just starting to acknowledge the reality of Jefferson the slaveowner. There were at least a few slave cabins, though the Hemings story was still being adamantly denied. It's good to see this important history being given a full accounting.

  60. We must be the same age because my sister and I had the same experience and reaction when our mother asked that question. Thank goodness that some things are becoming transparent.

  61. It is sad that we do not know more about Sally Hemings and her relationship with Jefferson. If there were any record, we might know more about both. Did Jefferson confide in her? Did she know what he really thought of the other founders? How much did she really know about Jefferson's work and thoughts? In other words, was there any intimacy, or was it simply a sexual relationship with which a powerful man gratified himself? The fact that she was able to negotiate freedom for her children points if she returned to Virginia, seems to suggest that Jefferson valued her presence. She also did not leave Virginia after Jefferson's death, though she was entitled to do so.

  62. Tom spent the extra expense to have Sally Vaccinated against i believe small pox. he must have wanted to keep her around for more than sex cause he had hundreds of other women at his disposal.

  63. I am moved to consider such a long relationship within an Enlightenment hero's home. It might have been love and hidden for political advantage. It might have been usage of another human legally incapable of consent and socially incapable of resistance. Perhaps she reminded Jefferson of her half-sister, his dead wife, and traded love for better life for herself and her progeny. Families are built on less, love does grow beyond boundaries. But within slave-ownership? In a Founding Father? For 3 decades? Can love ever be involved when ownership is, where all power is in the hands of one's partner? Whatever the bonds between Sally and her master were, this mystery is part of the awful history of ownership of others amid the American Enlightenment, and will remain something Americans ponder as we try, no matter our color, to understand the past, deal with the present, and prepare the future. Faulkner wrote "The past is never dead. It's not even past".

  64. The bond was - he owned her.

  65. Agreed. The issue is how slavery distorts all possible relationships. One has to consider Jefferson's actions as pathological not because of individual malice, but because they were a product of a twisted social structure. Now, men like Jefferson were responsible for that structure, and it was possible to be an abolitionist then -- one of Jefferson's closest friends, Benjamin Rush, was. It is a good thing that Monticello is telling the truth now. The fact of the matter is that one might be as great a mind as Jefferson and yet be an oppressor.

  66. Making sense of Thomas Jefferson's contradictions, many of which mirror the the human, social and historical contradictions still unresolved down to our own times, is an endlessly fascinating and frustrating task that many authors have attempted. One book I found particularly original and illuminating is "Most Blessed of the Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination," co-authored by Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf. Published in 2017, it spends a good deal of time on the relationship between Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson and puts them in the larger context of Jefferson's view of himself and his world. Like many of us, he was both self-aware and a product of his times. Perhaps the same can be said of Hemings and their children.

  67. i read Annette Gordon-Reed earlier book about Sally and Tom. thanks for the tip on the new one. Sally fascinates me especially since she took Tom for the father of her children.

  68. So Jefferson had a slave but he never ever ever raped her. It was a relationship... I wonder why is OK to have slaves but raping them is another matter... What people think having a human being tretated as cattle, as a slave, was about..? Rape? Of course! Humillitaon? Of course? Being reduced to nothing? Sure! And Jefferson did that? Absolutely...! Why wouldn´t we call this "relationship" a master raping a slave? Why are we so timid or puritane about history? Wha do we lie soooo much? Slavery happened. Black women were raped constantly and who knows how many pedophiles owned plantations.... Look around us now... There is a President who is a racist, a KKK friend, a sexual predator, a crook, a fraud, etc. so you have doubts about Jefferson "relationship" with his slaves...? come´on... wake up and smell the coffee

  69. TJ was not Trump. Tom and Sally were in love and had a productive family.

  70. And you know that that little girl and slave master were "in love" how?

  71. the degree to which people hate facts and hate facing reality is disturbing. America has never faced the real horrors of slavery such that even in cases that really sounds like she chose to return to America, even there it makes people angry. imagine if as many German wanted to fly Nazi flags, put up statues of Hitler and deny the reality of the ovens? that you would go visit a slave plantation and be angry there was discussion about slavery is both disturbing and sad. it has been over 200 years since she died, when will we face reality?

  72. Regrettably this article leaves out an important fact on the rape issue. When Jefferson and Sally Hemings began their sexual relationship in Paris Jefferson was in his mid forties and Sally Hemings was about 15 or 16 years old. That's an important part of the context. Salley Hemings was essentially a slave for Jefferson's daughter, they were about the same age and were playmates. In fact Sally Hemings was half sister to Jefferson's wife, who had died. and so an aunt to the daughter.

  73. Sally was 14 and willing to please her master for the same reason many females please men today, not much has changed in that respect. the age difference was not unusual for the time.

  74. Another interesting fact is that Jefferson was widowed at 39 after 10 years and six children with his wife Martha. Just before she died, at 33, Martha, who had been widowed herself at 20, asked her husband to promise never to marry again, saying she could not bear the thought of another woman raising her children. He was described as distraught and inconsolable for weeks after she died and never remarried, although he lived another 44 years and did have six more children with Sally Hemings. Life is complicated.

  75. We will never know what is true, so let's give the benefit of the doubt to Ms. Hemings and her descendants. As to whether he raped her or it was a mutual affair, I don't think it is out place to decide. Leave that to history.

  76. Part of the interest in this story lies in not knowing for sure what the circumstances were. One thing seems* clear to me: a relationship that endured for 40 years without known undue conflict should not be characterized as "rape." Even in that troubled era of history, it was possible for people of diverse races to love each other deeply. I say "seems." What do I know? Probably as much and as little as anybody else, and I admit, I want to believe the best about this Promethean presidential figure.

  77. John LeBaron, slavery perhaps, is a difficult concept for some.

  78. “Even in that troubled era of history, it was possible for people of diverse races to love each other deeply.” Even in this troubled era of history the same holds true. Love knows no boundaries. Thank you.

  79. The changes at Monticello sound very interesting, but I have dispute the Times' characterization of how the story of Sally Hemings has been presented heretofore. I visited Monticello four years ago, expecting to hear little about slavery during Jefferson's time or about the Jefferson-Hemings relationship. I had to admit that I was prepared to make some intemperate comments if Hemings had been ignored on the tour. I was happy to be proved wrong. My tour guide spoke with the same scholarly authority and interest about Hemings and slave life at Monticello as he did about Jefferson's political and intellectual accomplishments. He pointedly noted that the way Jefferson lived his life belied his ideals about liberty and made him a hypocrite.

  80. If indeed it lasted 4 decades, I don't believe there weren't strong emotional feelings between them. Sally was a victim, a slave, but she could have loved Jefferson if he treated her well and with love. I am glad the truth has come out. We will never know the intimate feelings between the two.

  81. the fact that Sally had what 6 children with Tom and he made sure they were educated is proof enough that they were a family. Too bad the rest of Tom's slave children aren't known.

  82. When I was a kid - many moons ago - the tour included a prideful glimpse at one of Jefferson's "advanced" interior design features: the indoor toilet. Cool! However, the explanation of how this utile feature functioned had a supremely high yuck factor (even for a little kid). There was a hole beneath the toilet which emptied onto a conveyor belt below. Figure out the rest. When I returned some years later the indoor toilet was no longer on the tour.

  83. I know of few 8th or 9th grade girls who would be anything but repulsed by the advances of a grown man. This was never a love story.

  84. I think these same girls would find that marriage to even those who were their contemporaries, would be repugnant. It was not unusual for girls to marry anytime after puberty in France and even in their early teen is the US at that time. Mores have changed greatly over the past 230+ years.

  85. I find your comment repellant. What kind of "grown man" finds an adolescent "girl" a suitable companion? My opinion is that he would be immature rather than grown. Your comment underlines my concern that young women are being educated about the high rates of domestic violence from male perpetrators (usually people related or known to them) and the dangers of power inequities in intimate relationships.

  86. You clearly know nothing of history! Older men often sought far younger women as wives as they wanted children, and many women died at a young age, probably due to having 10 children in 10 years. Would we find this acceptable today? Of course not! But at the time when this was common, one reason for large families wasn't just the lack of any form of birth control, but was due to the expectation that these children would help with farm labor. The common man with just a child or two (and the possibility that at least one might be a girl, only useful in the house), was going to be in severe financial straits as he could not afford to hire labor. So, a young, healthy woman was much sought after. Just read the ads in pioneer days for "mail order" brides! No one today is suggesting that we should return to such mores. The ""power of inequities in intimate relationships" is not limited to those between a man and a woman. They also happen in same sex relationships. Some people have strong personalities and some people have weak ones. When there is a great disparity, there will be an inequality of power. I see no way of stopping this with any law or custom.

  87. Jefferson had more than one plantation, and was often away from Monticello. He owned (not had relationships with but owned) 600 slaves in his lifetime, owned 600 people. It is hopelessly naive to believe Hemmings was the only slave woman who bore his children. Maybe this quotation offers a glimmer of understanding: "I consider a woman who brings a child every two years as more profitable than the best man of the farm," Jefferson remarked in 1820. "What she produces is an addition to the capital, while his labors disappear in mere consumption." After the end of the slave trade (an economic decision that benefited Middle Atlantic slave owners), Virginia and Maryland became more slave-breeding than slave-using states, a fact I learned from reading a book published in 1911 by E. M. Simons. Reading old history books can be enlightening as well as reading the books of enlightened historians. We need to grapple with the economics of slavery, and a good place to start would be The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward Baptist, published in 2014. The NYT review is here: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/05/books/review/the-half-has-never-been-... Unfortunately, he does not go enough into the "supply" side of the supply and demand story. Maybe that's his next book. That's the real shadow on the wall.

  88. Sherry, as a fellow Virginian, I grew up knowing Virginia was the "breeding ground" for slaves; just look at the people around you; also, it didn't stop when slavery ended.

  89. The Jefferson-Hemings DNA is well enough documented that I think other Jefferson bloodlines would have surfaced by now if he had been as promiscuous as you suggest.

  90. I think you misunderstood the meaning of the word "breeding." Think about it. I can look at my family and see what you're talking about, but we haven't been selling off anybody.

  91. I am about to move to Virginia and I have a 10 year old son who loves history and loves the book Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. I am very happy to hear about this new development, as I will be taking my children to Monticello in August and was already thinking of ways to discuss these difficult issues with them. I’m glad Monticello has addressed this directly and am very much looking forward to my visit. I also recommend the aforementioned book to anybody with children. It’s not perfect but it’s very well written and engaging, and manages to make a difficult subject approachable.

  92. good for u. u'r approach is well reasoned and balanced. U are part of the solution to humanity's problems.

  93. Think about the women who stay with their abusers, or don't tell that they've been the victim of unwanted sexual advances, or who have been told by ministers to "endure." Now imagine an enslaved woman. Love is freely given. If he had set her and her children free, we could speak of love. Absent that, it's power, and Sally Hemings herself never had the opportunity to know whether it was love or not.

  94. This statement is very confusing to me because he did set the Hemings children free.

  95. In all such discussions as these, it is appropriate to remember that times and manners change. We do not wish to repeat the conditions of slavery. We need now to focus on reducing racism. We cannot know Thomas Jefferson’s true feelings for Sally Hemmings, but we can know what he wrote and did to make our democracy possible. That should be the focus of historical discussion. Even the “greatest” of us has flaws, perhaps the “greater,” the larger the flaws. It is ultimately what each of us contributes to the common good that is important to remember.

  96. It is ultimately important to remember the whole of a person. Especially for such a towering figure in American history as Thomas Jefferson. Otherwise, truth is hidden and lies are told.

  97. This is the first time I heard that Sally was Martha's half sister and was more than half white herself. At that time, it was quite common for a man to marry his deceased wife's sister, so I find this interesting, and far easier to understand. I think this, and the fact he freed her/their children when they reached their majority, shows that there was more to the relationship than power, and definitely not rape. As for Sally's age while in Paris: it was quite common for girls to marry at 15-16, so let's not judge that by today's practices or laws. I think the decision to put up the word "rape" followed by a question mark, was a bow to today's political correctness and is a poor decision. We must not fall into the tendency today to view behaviors that took place over 230 years ago by today's mores. It is a grave injustice. As to Monticello being " palatial", perhaps a more accurate word could have been used. Beautiful, gracious, large - all a far better choice of words. It's not Blenheim Palace.

  98. Monticello was certainly palatial for its time and place. Built, of course, by slaves.

  99. Dave, Good point. In Jefferson's day, the Blue Ridge Mts. clearly visible from Monticello, were the frontier. By colonial standards it was palatial. By European standards it was a country cottage. The first time I visited I remember being disappointed by the scale of the house, the rooms are quite intimate. And no one questions that it was built by slaves. So was the White House.

  100. This was rape. saying it wasn't, only makes *you* (whites) feel better. It doesn't help the narrative for black people, the descendants in this country. The comments parsing and justifying are disgusting here.

  101. I think it HAS to be considered rape. Because Hemings never had a choice. As his slave, his "property" could she really have been able to say "No?" To defy her "master?" I doubt it.

  102. Not so. Rape is a crime defined by statute. At this time, according to statute, a white person could not rape a slave. A slave could not rape a slave. Only a male could rape a female who was not a slave and who was not their wife.

  103. Well, why don't you ask her? She greatly improved her own living standard, and that of her children and grandchildren. And Jefferson was a handsome charismatic man--who was effectively making her his common law wife. Don't make her a victim. She was fighting for a better future, and she did what she had to--and perhaps what she wanted to. Let's not compound Jefferson's crimes and those of most other rich white men in the slave states, by taking away her personhood, turning her into an object. She knew what she was doing, and she could have stayed in France. She chose not to. She is one of our founding mothers, and we should celebrate her, not pity her.

  104. Colenso, you sound like Jeff Sessions using the biblical quote that we have to obey the government to defend the atrocity we are allowing at the border, separating mother from child. Rape is rape. Since slaves were considered property they were not considered under law to be able to be victims of rape because the law did not recognize that they could be raped; they were property/slaves not people, but that did not mean that they were not in fact raped.

  105. We need nationwide catharsis from our history of slavery and race. We never had a "Truth and Reconciliation Commission," and we do not seem to be able to shrug off our burdens of the past. The New Monticello and The National Memorial to Peace and Justice are steps in the right direction.

  106. By today's standards, Jefferson would be labeled a pedophile. Granted, norms do change, but nonetheless, Jefferson's narrative does not fit the description of a moral man.

  107. Not so. A paedophile is an adult who is sexually attracted to prepubescents. At this time, Sally Hemmings can't have been prepubescent because she became pregnant.

  108. @Colenso Nice nit-picking, @ Colenso The term "paedophile" (or "pedophile as we like to write in the US) also quite accurately means "a person who is sexually attracted to children". I will not engage in a discussion of at what age females in 18th C America, Britain, or Europe were considered "adult". That said, as a female person who has been a daughter, a mother, and a grandmother in the 20th and 21st centuries, I can assure you that a girl of 14 is not legally an adult, whether or not she has reached puberty and can be impregnated. And how does this serve the discussion at hand?

  109. What parsing of words we have here!!! What denial!!!! She was barely a teen. Being raped into baring a child doesn't make you one??? What in5 earth? Wrap your head around it already. No parsing of words will change the horrors of slavery or abuse of a child forced to bare children after rape. Forced to bare the children of a slave master. Never able to live free and choose her own mate, at and of, an appropriate age.

  110. They told what they knew and left the rest open to interpretation, as historians should. So Hemmings was the half sister of Jefferson's wife. That tells you about common practice in those days. The first comment by Rachel C tells us that Hemmings went to France at 14 as the nanny for Jefferson's daughter and was pregnant by Jefferson "only a few months later" (statutory rape under today's law). Slavery is America's Original Sin and the consequences are still with us thanks to the self-serving feel-good garbage that the unfortunate must deserve their misfortune. It's good that Jefferson't white descendants accept their cousins by Hemmings as cousins. We must hope that Hemmings children were right to see genuine affection between their parents.

  111. That the denial of this connection lasted to long is astounding. In the account by Madison Hemings referenced, he refers to his mother as Jeffersons concubine, ( and to his grandmother Betty Hemings as John Wayles' concubine). To me this suggests a longterm arrangement which was with some degree of acceptance by the women - perhaps as the best option for a woman born in slavery to assure her children's ( and her own) safety and survival. That Sally Hemings - as a pregnant teenager - with no one to support her - negotiated the future freedom of her own children-to-be - is remarkable to me. That not returning with Jefferson was even a possibility for her is a major surprise given the her lack of power.

  112. By definition, that she had the possibility of not returning to Virginia is evidence of a degree of "power." The power dynamic was in Jefferson's favor, but such is always the case in sexual/romantic relationships between men and their paramours. Yet you acknowledge that she had a significant degree of agency--this is why I use the word paramour. While today its as an old-fashioned term for an illicit lover, its old French roots simply mean "through love," implying a relationship based on love (or perhaps simply love making) as opposed to social custom--and in this case, social mores (and, technically, law). Though the modern French don't use the term, to me it conjures up a notion of an arrangement that on one hand is almost contractual and yet, on the other, has an emotional aspect to it.

  113. He was *not* paramour. That word suggests equality and choice. Slaves had none.

  114. They were slaves - they could not accept - only succumb. No other choice.

  115. Jefferson was not known to be a violent man so I find a forcible rape scenario unlikely. The romantic in my wants to believe there was some level of affection but I can just as easily envision Sally Hemings making an economic decision for the good of her children. There is no primary source material which means we just don't know. Arguing about it is pretty pointless Also, keep in mind that at the time, a married woman was the chattel property of her husband.

  116. I hear what you're saying, but even some people don't consider forcible rape to be "violent." That is, short of beating the woman, they see it as forced sex, not a violent act in and of itself.

  117. Rape, doesn't have to be forcible. It's a power dynamic. Why on earth in the year 2018 don't you know that????

  118. It didn't need to be violent. She had no choice in the matter and knew it.

  119. I have been reading an interesting book dealing with this subject: The Jefferson Lies, by David Barton, in which the author claims that Jefferson has not been proven to be the father of Nancy Hemings' children. The DNA evidence apparently did not prove that Thomas Jefferson was the culprit, but rather that the father could have been any of about 10 male members of the Jefferson family. Read it for yourself and make up your own mind. It is a well-written book apparently well referenced, and certainly thought-provoking.

  120. @Fred Glavin No, I have followed this report for a few years, including the arguments of the naysayers, and they are just grasping for straws. Read some real history, that of Annette Gordon-Reed, and you'll learn that Jefferson's visits to his home was consistent with the births of the Hemings children (what a coincidence). Furthermore, one of the children moved away but his neighbors told him--after they had visited DC-- that he bore a remarkable resemblence to Jefferson. Also Jefferson taught his children skills that were rare among slaves: violin playing. This is only a hint. Gordon-Reed's book was the first to present evidence of the Jefferson-Hemings connection. Her interest in Jefferson began when she was a child, so her work is much deeper than those of others who are just trying to "exonerate" Jefferson.

  121. The power and accuracy of DNA testing has grown exponentially since 2012 so it's a bit hard to validate some conclusions based on older methods.

  122. Wait a minute! Are you telling me our foundering fathers were not perfect in every way? Who is?

  123. "The disease to please" - the dynamic between women and men - as Henry Fonda's daughter writes.........Jane marvels that women less fortunate than she (beautiful, wealthy, white, with the ability to earn huge sums of money, the woman who supported 2 of her 3 husbands) are able to leave abusive relationships. Jane financially and emotionally supported 2 of her 3 husbands. Vadim had a gamble problem; Hayden - multiple problems particularly in regard to women. As the manager of a community mental health center so many years ago, I saw first hand the struggles of women trapped in abusive, demeaning, literally horrific relationships. When the woman made the decision to leave her abuser, unfortunately far too often she (1) either returned to the abuser; or (2) chose a man similar flawed. Factor in black-white; slave-owner; wealth-poverty. . . . I think it is very telling that Jefferson freed h is offspring with Hemings but NOT Hemings - the power dynamic at work.

  124. We know that Sally Hemmings was one of many of Jeffersons’ slaves at Monticello, known by name, with recorded biological relatives. Hence the historical facts of slave stories must be drafted, presented, updated, and accepted; our very values depend on this flow. Washington's slaves at Mount Vernon are increasingly considered and memorialized; notable is an extraordinary cemetery curated by historians and students. And the EJI museum and memorial in Montgomery truly redefines historical standard. In contrast, the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond and museum homes that face Fort Sumter, tragically both (and more alike) are historical vacuums of delusion and deceit. For all that Washington and Jefferson accomplished, the norms of their era made it trivial for them to live as slave owners, indeed they too were subject to the conditioning that America’s sadistic slavery was reasonable. Only people such as Seward's wife, who witnessed slavery’s atrocities for the first time as an adult, could see the horror. The eventual rejection of the conditioning is what made Lincoln exceptional, philosophically and biochemically exceptional. I like to think that Lincoln could have persuaded Washington and Jefferson to reject slavery outright, but there’s little value in wondering. Authentic benefit exists when citizens empower historians to do exceptional work and accept their work to reconcile evil and heal. I commend the team at Monticello for their work.

  125. “He just doesn’t seem to be a person who would do this.” ******* Really? Do what? Have slaves? He had them. Have sex with a woman he wasn't married to - the half sister of his dead wife? Or that he would have sex with a black slave woman? Oh my gosh, he wasn't a celibate widower? Thomas Jefferson wasn't some god. He was human. All too human for some people, apparently. It doesn't change the good things and did, or the ideals he stood for, but pretending he was somehow above what some find acceptable behavior - sinfulness even - is the problem. Recognizing truth is never wrong. It's not always easy, but it's never wrong.

  126. Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini Joseph Stalin King George III Jefferson Davis and Woodrow Wilson did some good things too. Thomas Jefferson was no George Washington nor Alexander Hamilton nor John Adams nor Abraham Lincoln nor John Brown nor Lyndon Johnson.

  127. I just wish folks would read more widely about why historians have accepted this relationship. A year before the DNA report, Dr. Annette Gordon-Reed made the case for it, using both legal techniques and the tools historians use when they have little documented evidence. There is quite a bit of historical evidence. To chalk this acceptance up to "political correctness" is just laziness.

  128. There was no statute at the the time that made it a crime for a slave owner to kill his slave, let alone a crime to rape her. Don't you understand? Slaves had no rights whatsoever under American statutory laws. They did have limited rights under the statutory laws, common law and equity of England and Wales, but they lost those rights when America shrugged of the 'tyranny' of Westminster. Most commenting here have no idea about the evils of American slavery. Sally Hemming was the absolute property of her master, to deal with absolutely as he chose. Remember that America is a nation of laws? Look at the American statutes of the time. There was no statute that made it a crime for any person to rape a female slave. A slave owner would have to bring a civil action for trespass against anyone, white or black, who had sex with one of his slaves without the owner's consent.

  129. Not quite sure what your point is -- that the evil US, which had the gall to throw off the Westminster yoke instead of waiting patiently for permission to be granted independence like Australia was, is worse than Commonwealth countries? (Keeping in mind that Australia was not really independent until the Australia Acts of 1986 when Australian High Court decisions were not subject to being overruled by the British Privy Council.). Remember that even in Australia, it was not a crime for a man to rape his wife (it was not defined as rape) until fairly recently. That went to white women as well as minorities. So poor treatment in the law of women was hardly limited to slaves. And Australia has its own poor treatment of Aboriginals and Pacific Islanders (who were for all intents and purposes slaves on Queensland sugar plantations), including the still-lingering effects of the stolen generations. We all have aspects of our histories to be ashamed of. At least the US is, to a greater and greater extent, dealing openly and honestly with its history of slavery. When will Australia do the same?

  130. The father of Sally Hemmings was not just a white plantation slave owner but Thomas Jefferson’s father in law. So in fact Sally Hemmings was the half sister of Jefferson’s wife.

  131. I never cease to be amazed at persons who eagerly judge a man - born in 1743 - as if he were a sophomore at Harvard, in 2018. Nothing, at all, was the same. What a swine he was, not to have made the world perfect; in his own time; by your standards.

  132. No evil is always the same whether or not it was by any legal standards or personal standards of the day. Your logic could just as easily be used towards the holocaust when Jews were thought to be lesser by Germans and many of those days. Slavery was wrong as was the trail of tears for the American Indians. All we can do is not fail to point out human's failings as to recognizing them and learning from them. And have we?

  133. A man educated in the classics, a student of Locke (and perhaps Rousseau) who wrote of self evident truths should have known and could have acted better. It is hypocritical and small to proclaim that you are under tyranny while you engage and profit from commerce based on human suffering and exploitation.

  134. He did know and wrote of it. He exchanged letters with a neighbor who urged him to free his slaves. The neighbor did and moved to OH. Jefferson excused his behavior at that point by saying he was too old.

  135. I lived in Charlottesville for 38 years and watched the slow freight train called Monticello deny, deny, deny everything associated with Sally Hemings, hope, hope, hope it would all go away. Monticello's "leadership" wanted to preserve Jefferson's reputation at all costs. It failed. It intentionally hid the truth. Shame on them.

  136. Those were the times. Values and notions of what is important change. You can let go of your shaming propensity. Monticello is doing the right thing.

  137. I'm glad Monticello is taking this on. As complex and uncertain as Sally Hemmings's story is, it richly deserves to be told. While her relationship with Jefferson was certainly not consensual as we understand it today, seeing her just as a victim is surely a mistake. She was a person with agency of her own-- likely intelligent and strong-minded, based on what we know of her family. Using her as a criticism of Jefferson does her an injustice. She deserves to be remembered as more than an object acted upon by white men. Her son's words are a much more fitting memorial.

  138. Long overdue. We commend the authors and historians who did the research, continued researching and kept us abreast of the lost historical details and documents. Unfortunately, there are many more stories, but denial of the relationships in America’s racial history have deep roots, like a recurring weed. We have to weed out the naysayers and deniers and focus on the personal relationships to expose the true history. Congratulations to the museum. When I found documents revealing the relationships between my European and African ancestors, I found Early American history. The family of my Scottish ancestor owned a building in Fredericksburg Virginia where they traded tobacco, and the building still stands today, so I contacted the city’s cultural leaders. They did not respond because I am African American. When I sent my ancestors’ birth documents to Scotland, the Scots and the Queen reviewed the birth documents and granted me an inherited coat of arms from my 18th-century Scottish, Ghanaian, Jamaican and American ancestors. My Scottish ancestor was a noble related to the monarchy. Meghan Markle married a royal and the Queen granted her a royal coat of arms. Mine is inherited. A heraldry expert comments: https://blog.appletonstudios.com/2011/04/heraldry-in-news_28.html Acknowledging the history of the races can help us deal with the modern relationships between the races. Let us all keep researching the history and telling the truths about the relationships.

  139. One of the commentors mentions what it was like moving to Charlottesville in the 90's and feeling, as they described it, a kind of cult of Jefferson. Well, I can tell you the more truthful telling of history has come light-years, from the time when I arrived at UVa from the North, to attend grad school in 1971. We're all better for it and those that seem so certain in being able to read the minds and actions of those 200+ years in the past, when there's little in the record to support anything but the vaguest conclusions, almost certainly fool themselves. The other article, covering in more detail the period when Jefferson and Hemings were in Paris, I thought, was an exceptional and a valuable companion piece.

  140. I think Jefferson treated Hemmings quite honorably. What do you think Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein have done in his place?

  141. There is nothing honorable about slavery

  142. All three did the same: rape women over whom they had power. Jefferson is the worst because he did it for almost 40 years, while he was pontificating about freedom and human rights. If he “loved” her, why didn’t he liberate her? Then she’d have had the power to consent or refuse. Instead, he kept her in his ownership and promised eventual freedom — after he got decades of slave servitude out of them — to her (to his OWN) children. You think that’s honorable. You must be a Trump fan.

  143. How do you know he raped her? You're just assuming to make your point.

  144. Thank goodness. We can't grow as a community without acknowledging the past. I think it should be clarified that he did not free all of his slaves. As I understand it, he may have attempted to do so, but his debts were immense and though some slave children may have been freed, some may have sold off.

  145. He sold many, many of his slaves.

  146. “We really can’t know what the dynamic was,” said Leslie Greene Bowman, president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. Love it. Facts are there--she was a slave, Jefferson the Master and Father of her children. Obviously he had the Power and she didn't and "we really can't know the dynamic"? Of Course we Know..........It was Unequal and Forceful...............

  147. Absolutely, this dynamic probably wasn't the "Lovings of Virginia" story since Sally Hemings apparently lived in an open cage instead of living in the main house; she was his slave not his wife.

  148. Please read Prof. Gordon-Reed's book for a fuller picture. There are a lot more details historians have found than what you presented here.

  149. Let's be clear: Ms. Sally Hemings was Thomas Jefferson's slave property. As such, she had no choice or decision making power! Many white slave owners sired offspring from their African slaves, hence the remarkable DNA results that span the many hues of Black Americans living today. Nevertheless, the complexity of this horrific institution and the new scholarship examining its consequences make this exhibition noteworthy as we continue our quest for veritas!

  150. You are correct about her status, but not necessarily about her condition. Inequality has been the norm for most of human history, but genuine affection has somehow permeated between classes of people. We can’t know the truth between Jefferson and Hemings, and I shouldn’t have to say that it wouldn’t justify slavery in any case. We live in such an emotive age, hungry for outrage and attention, that all the intelligent adult conversations have been used up. From the Old Testament to the Arabian Nights, and well into real life, love has shown that it is stronger than anyone’s discipline to obey social norms. So as long as we all remain ignorant of the specific facts here, I won’t shut the door on the possibility that two people fell in love even though the odds were against them. Some may find this stance offensive. In 2018, that’s like saying the sky is blue. But if your calling in this life is to avenge the dead, you aren’t impressing anyone.

  151. Slavery is a great evil, but enslaved people are still people. Their choices are constrained by injustice and violence, but some have always found a way to claim a measure of self-efficacy. And, in the 1700s, all women were effectively chattel. Martha Jefferson was intelligent, strong-willed, artistic and educated, and Sally Hemings was her sister. Though enslaved, she raised four children to be free adults. Her oldest children escaped slavery when they were young adults. Three of her children lived as white, but all were open about their heritage. All the Hemings children were skilled artisans and successful members of their community. Her grandchildren fought for the Union in the Civil War; her descendants include academics, physicians, and civil rights leaders. Frankly, I think it's insulting to say that Sally Hemings "had no choice or decision making power." She may not have left a record of her own thoughts, but she certainly left a legacy of success and intellectual independence. Any person, of any race, sex, or era, could take pride in such posterity .

  152. What's insulting is the notion that any SLAVE has a choice! That her descendents reaped a few benefits does not negate the facts: Slaves were property with no rights under the laws in America.

  153. I toured Monticello about 20 years ago and the tour guide was candid about Jefferson's relationship with Sally Hemings and that it may have been involuntary on Sally Hemings' part. I did not think at that time there was any "cover-up" .

  154. I don't understand the reasoning behind stopping tours of the house - that wasn't explained. Would that mean no access or not just no docents?

  155. I'm saddened to hear, if I undestand correctly, that tours of Monticello ("house tours") are on their way to extinction. There's much to admire and it's so tangibly visible. No other way to tell the "story" could measure up.

  156. I know. Those tours are great. Change the content if they are to be made more representative of the totality of Jefferson and the lives of those at Monticello, but why discontinue the tours?

  157. I can hardly wait for the Broadway musical -- "Hemmings!" If the hip-hop treatment is good enough for Hamilton, it's good enough for Jefferson.

  158. Have you seen Hamilton? Jefferson's pimp-like appearance and the shady questions/asides directed at him by others make the true nature of the man quite clear.

  159. My wife and I attended my 45th class reunion at UVA two weekends ago. One of the activities we did was an all day tour of Monticello on Thursday. After touring the house from bottom to top, we had the opportunity to take another tour, Mulberry Row. We had an excellent tour guide and learned that this unpaved Avenue is where Jefferson’s slaves, who weren’t field workers, worked as skilled labor for various farm industries in the sheds. Approximately 135 to 150 slaves were involved in enabling Jefferson to keep his farm financially viable at any one time with TJ owing approximately 600 slaves over the course of his time at Monticello. After we finished looking at slave living quarters and where they worked our guide sat us down and explained how Monticello was a working slave farm. Harsh working conditions though TJ was not known as a cruel, and cared about his overseers’ treatment of slaves. Families were not treated by TJ any differently than the usual practice of his peers in selling off individual family members if the time and price were right- all except for Sally’s family. Our guide went into the whole Hemmings saga and stated that while there was no direct DNA match to TJ, there is to his uncle, and the weight of authority is that she was TJ’s de facto wife. Thomas Jefferson was a complicated and conflicted man, a great man in many respects, and very aware of his moral failings. I’m very proud of Monticello for making certain that all its history is told.

  160. I guess I would say, it's the simple truth, and I'm not sure why enormous praise is due Monticello today for finally coming out with it. A lot of these comments seem to me like white complacency and self satisfaction

  161. The white male hegemony is breaking at the seams.

  162. People who want to categorize Jefferson as just another brutal slave-holder might want to consider slave-holding in South Carolina. Freeing slaves became so common that a law was passed in South Carolina that only the legislature could grant a slave-holder the right to free his slaves.

  163. I have just completed the majestic, White over Black by Winthrop Jordan (1969). This history of white black relations until 1815 has a whole section on Jefferson, his views on slavery, race, miscegenation, and women. Jefferson was a complex imperfect but brilliant man filled with contradictions. He was against slavery, but could not make himself state that blacks were equal to whites. He was taken to task for this by others often during elections. He also projected his own interracial sexual desires on blacks, then called negroes. Jefferson was remarkably influential and Jordan makes the argument that Jefferson was the founding father of scientific racism in this country. The Jefferson-Hemmings relationship may have evolved into a genuine family relationship, but this relationship clearly did not begin in this manner. Sarah was too young and unfree to consent. I wonder whether Revolutionary France was a realistic option. But to her credit she did manage to assert her rights. On the other hand, slavery in America was often intimate. It is possible that some slave women-master relationships evolved into family affairs or relationships. Somehow I am skeptical of such possibilities. Professor Gordon Reed is generous to Thomas Jefferson. But every historian, reader has to decide for himself or herself. One point that Jordan makes is that Jefferson was generally not generous to the plight of blacks even though he can be regarded as anti-slavery.

  164. One of the contradictions of Jefferson was that he was anti-slavery but owned slaves. Those even Northerners who criticized him for his racism also owned slaves. America is a complicated place.

  165. Bravo to Monticello for seeking truth. The reality is that slaves were property. Engravings at the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago show slaves at auction being groped in the same fashion as cattle at auction. What is the meaning of "consent" under such circumstances? Compliance with the desires of the slave owner may well have looked to an attractive young female slave like, um, job advancement -- would you rather grub burdock in the fields at 95 degrees or work in relative luxury in your owner's home? And Thomas Jefferson appears to have treated Sally Hemings well. She seems to have been part of his life for many years & to have received significant privilege not unlike that of a mate. Contrast the current occupant of the White House -- can you imagine one of his babes being in the inner circle for 40 years?

  166. House slave, field slave, concubine slave - still a slave. Sally Hemings didn't "grub burdock in the fields at 95 degrees," she was able to "work in relative luxury" in Jefferson's home. Okay. A little reworking of Jay-Z's The Story of O.J. but the meaning is applicable to Sally Hemings too.

  167. I visited Monticello last June and when I saw there were people in the cemetery, started to walk in. I was stopped at the gate and told that only Jefferson descendants were allowed to go inside, it was some kind of Jeffersonian family reunion. Whites only; no descendants of color could be found.

  168. And let's not forget Fawn Brodie's Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History (1974). A professor of mine read that when it was published, and he said "they will have to show me DNA evidence before I believe any of this..." And of course they did. Those of us studying history in NYC had a tough time with supposedly "liberal" history professors.

  169. I am happy to learn about this exhibit! High time! An interesting fact: Madison Hemings moved to this area, Pike County, OH, and was a known master carpenter. I am a former New Yorker caring for my elderly mother who lives here in Waverly. One of my favorite getaways is to the Grand Tavern (on US Rte. 23) about a mile down the road from me. There, I can take a peek at a staircase which Madison built, while enjoying FRESH oysters and flounder which the owner buys and picks up weekly in Maryland. Lots of wonderful pieces of history in these parts.

  170. Sounds suspiciously like a restaurant plug wrapped inside what would have been an interesting comment if on its own. By the way, I also live in that area.

  171. I can see that, but really (kind of, at least) wasn’t meant as a plug....just wanted to share because I love the whole experience.

  172. In 1987, I visited Monticello and made a point, probably annoyingly so, of asking the docent, an older woman, about Sally Hemmings. I was met with stony silence and a pained look. And was then completely ignored for the rest of the tour. The people who ran Monticello until recently have a lot to answer for. I’m glad they’re taking steps to remedy that.

  173. Relationship? Really? How does an enslaved child have a "relationship" with an enslaver? Disgusting!!!

  174. There is always relationship. The question is about its precise nature.

  175. I am glad to hear this, but we visited Monticello last summer and found the entire experience almost surreally WHITE. Sally Hemings wasn't the only slave there; the entire edifice that is Monticello was built by, maintained by and could not have functioned for 2 hours without the hundreds of African American slaves who did the actual work. The entire Monticello story needs to be retold from the African American perspective. They could start by hiring African American tour guides. Instead there was a "slavery memory corner" or something like that. Telling the truth about Sally Hemings is just a start; a full makeover is needed.

  176. If you've ever seen some of the gatherings of Jefferson's white and black decendants it's impossible to ignore the physical similarities between the two groups white and black. It is visually striking. I challenge anyone who doubts the paternity of Hemmings' children to look at any photo of that group and still deny it.

  177. The ONLY slaves ever freed from bondage by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello were the children of Sally Hemings. At the time of his death in 1826 Jefferson owned 130 slaves in 1827 those slaves were sold to pay off the debts of the Jefferson estate.

  178. J so t kbow what feelings Jwfferson or Hemmings had at the time, though under acmodern understanding of power dynamics it’s definitely sexual assault/rape, but I have some questions for the guy who thinks “older man in sexual relationship with dead wife’s lookalike fourteen year old half-sister—who he OWNS—convinces her into giving up a chance at freedom in foreign country” qualifies as romance, because no matter what emotions were present or developed later, those are the facts we know about the beginning of their relationship combined with his view of “romantic.”

  179. Jefferson did not have a "relationship" with Sally Hemmings. He raped her. Repeatedly, for years. He clearly qualifies as one of the worst hypocrites in history, and not just for slavery. When president, he ignored everything he had ever said about how government should work.

  180. So interesting: the last time we were at Monticello--just a few years ago-I listened to a docent explain how Jefferson couldn't possibly have carried on an affair with Hemings, since he had a h'ouseful of children' from whom, presumably, such an immoral relationship would have had to be concealed. --Really. Well, thankfully Monticello has removed the stars from its eyes and embraced reality.

  181. The first time I toured Monticello, it was their usual Hero Worship tour from the mid 1990s. In one vignette, they showed us his dumb-waiter that they claimed to be a unique invention for the conveyance of wine from the cellar to the upstairs. Some of us looked down the dark hole from which the wine would arise, and thought about who needed to be down there. Monticello has changed since those days. Back then the Hemings were treated as misinformed treasure/fame seekers. In contrast, exhibits now show how young slave children were treated based on how many nails they could make in a day. What flavor of ice cream was preferred by Thomas now seems less important. A weight has come off of the place. And that hole down into the basement isn't a screaming representation of unspoken injustice the way it once was. Now a group is to discount the Hemings (not surprisingly having the word "Heritage" in its name), is working to drag us back into the past and away from History. This feels like a recurring problem, one that we are all too familiar with these days. Let's not underestimate who and what can drag us back in attempt to reclaim unjust glory. And lets not pretend that the truth can't be buried again. As we know all too well, a lot of folks out there would prefer it that way. We need to be vigilant this time.

  182. In 1776 the cultivation of tobacco had significantly degraded the soil of Virginia plantations and there was a legitimate question mark over the continued viability of chattel slavery. Within 30 years the invention of the cotton gin, the Louisiana Purchase, and the unquenchable thirst of British mills for cotton had launched a remarkable, unending boom lasting until the Civil War erupted following Lincoln's election in 1960. The demand for hands to till the fields and pick the crop combined with the end of the TransAtlantic slave trade gave Virginia planters (like Jefferson) a monopoly on the single most important commodity in the American economy - slaves. That's what accounts for the change in Jefferson's attitude. Jefferson had pressing economic obligations and he even turned down Kosciuszko's offer to utilize the liquidation of Kosciuszko's assets upon his death to finance the freeing of Jefferson's slaves. By the time of Jefferson's own death in 1826 Sally Hemings was described in the liquidation of Jefferson's estate as - "an old woman - worth about $50". Hemings was 3/4 white and their children were 7/8 white. In the fading sunlight Jefferson's sons were frequently mistaken for their father - yet they were slaves because what was primary in these relationships was not racial composition but an economic system based on the labor of people that had been robbed of their freedom and the riches that accrued to those who "owned" and traded in them as property. How sad!

  183. While it is not popular to note, it is much more likely that Thomas Jefferson's nephew fathered children with Sally Hemmings.

  184. Why much more likely?

  185. No, it is not more likely, and the timelines don't fit.

  186. When I was a student at the University of Virginia many years ago the consensus among all the Jefferson scholars was that a gentleman like Jefferson could never have had relations with a slave. It was utterly impossible. Ha ha!

  187. Do they think slave kids started looking like the plantation owners through magical DNA osmosis through the sultry Southern air? What is their theory on mixed-race children back then? Maybe they still believe in the stork?

  188. Per the article, according to Virginia law, Hemings was Jefferson's property. To the question, "How to describe the decades-long sexual relationship between Jefferson and Hemings? Should it be described as rape?" Yes

  189. Not to minimize the Sally Hemings story, but most women of her era were little more than slaves, indentured to the men who chose to "marry" them, and and many were little more than, and sometimes younger than, 14 years of age. Did women have choices? Most did not. However, Sally Hemings probably had a life much better than the many other slaves at Monticello. A diary entry of Jefferson tells that he learned to make nails at a factory in Waterford, NY, after which he went back to Monticello and put the young slaves to work hand cutting nails which he sold for profit. Children as young as 10 years of age were employed cutting nails. See Monticello description and Jefferson's diary entries. https://www.monticello.org/site/plantation-and-slavery/nailery Example from his diary: 1795 April 29. (Jefferson to Jean Nicolas Demeunier). "... I now employ a dozen little boys from 10. to 16. years of age, overlooking all the details of their business myself, and drawing from it a profit on which I can get along till I can put my farms into a course of yeilding profit. My new trade of nail-making is to me in this country what an additional title of nobility, or the ensigns of a new order are in Europe."5

  190. Child labor was the norm for all kids, not just slaves at Monticello. People being people, slave owners differed in their attitudes toward slaves who were biological relatives. The Hemings were trained for skilled apprenticeships and as house servants, unlike Jefferson’s other slaves, including those who were also mixed race. Sally’s children were the only ones who he set free. They were given names that were Jefferson and Randolph family names. Two of the children went to Washington D.C. and lived as whites, married whites and had children. There are probably descendants today who don’t know they are descendants. I think they were family to Jefferson and his children, probably not viewed as entirely white or social equals, but people they cared for and were obligated to. Jefferson tried to do right by his children. Sally and her children probably had some level of fear of the Jeffersons and what they had the power to do, but they also had intimate personal relationships with them. They were mostly white themselves and would not have considered themselves like other slaves at Monticello.

  191. An exhibit at Monticello on Sally Hemings is important, and long overdue. Jefferson's relationship with Sally Hemings was an important part of his life, and attempting to understand Jefferson without understanding his relationship with Sally Hemings is impossible. There is no way to view the teenage Sally Hemings as having the opportunity to withhold her consent to a sexual relationship with Jefferson. That is, of course, the definition of rape. But that brings us back to the mystery of the character of Thomas Jefferson. How could the author of the Declaration of Independence hold his fellow man in slavery? How could an advocate against the Federal government and the power of the Presidency proceed with the Louisiana Purchase? Was he simply a gifted hypocrite, moved to use his vast rhetorical powers against his political enemies, while living a life divorced from the principles he enunciated? Or was his character, while enormously flawed, more complex?

  192. At last, Thomas Jefferson - and me, too.

  193. Me, two?

  194. As a Presbyterian pastor, I am fascinated by this honest, needed process which is transforming our ancestor narratives -- because as it changes them, it changes us. Interestingly, the Bible refuses to obfuscate or minimize the flaws, faults, and sometimes downright rotten nature of the "saints." Displacing hagiography and wrestling with a more complicated truth is essential for families, religions, and nations -- if we are to further mature in the light of truth.

  195. “He just doesn’t seem to be a person who would do this," the Jefferson Heritage woman protests. Why? Thomas Jefferson, for all of his astonishing gifts, and contributions to American freedom and enlightenment, was also human -- with human complexities and faults. Hypocrisy was one of them. And I do not mean private inconsistencies. He was a public hypocrite. The first draft of the Declaration of Independence denounced slavery. It was edited out. In his "Notes on the State of Virginia" he writes of his full comprehension about the evils of slavery. Yet, he held people in bondage while writing loftily about man's inalienable right to liberty. If he can be so bold as to be publicly hypocritical on full view before the whole world, by what alchemy do people think that he could not harbor such fundamental hypocrises in private?

  196. There needs to be an exhibit at Monticello about why it took two centuries for Sally Hemings to be given the place in history she deserves. It should also examine how the coverage (or lack of coverage) of Jefferson the slaveowner related to political events in Virginia and the South. It would be easy to show how Jefferson's bad faith or intellectual and spiritual dishonesty propagated itself through Monticello and its myths to infect future generations of Americans --a story some of Jefferson's descendants are still hiding from. Of course, this would not make a visit there the pleasant and self-reaffirming experience it has been in the past, at least for white Americans.

  197. I hope those struggling with what to tell schoolchildren will consider reading Jefferson's Sons by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley with them. This middle grade historical fiction is told from the viewpoint of Madison Jefferson as a child. It describes the pain of seeing his siblings disappear as they leave the family to "pass" into free, white society. The book is a well informed speculation that includes much of the information contained in this article--and it is an engaging book--kids enjoy reading it. Children's authors who take on the past with a new lens (Laurie Halse Anderson is another who does this) prepare kids to consider a nuanced view of history. People in the past were just as complicated as those in the present. Just like us, they're capable of both good and evil, often on the same day. It isn't heresy to teach this to children. In fact, the simplistic, worshipful portrayals of founding fathers that kids get in elementary school can be very hard to dislodge in middle school and high school when they start to study history in more depth.

  198. I couldn't agree more and this novel reinforces Dr. Gordon-Reed's perspective about life for the enslaved people on Jefferson's plantation.

  199. As a Caucasian woman who read about the Sally Hemmings story years ago, I am so pleased that the realities of history are continuing to be more in the public discourse. It is one of the many chapters of American history that indicate our flaws but illustrate our ability to admit and correct them. I HOPE. The problems that persist can’t be addressed until we define them. Telling the Truth is a beginning.

  200. I can not think of another director of a museum or historic site who has done a more noble or positively impactful service for their institution or the country at large than Leslie Greene Bowman. At an unprecedented time in history when the national and international impetus is to distort history in service of myth, Monticello is setting an example for us all. We should be very thankful.

  201. I salute Fawn Brody, a serious historian, who dared to tell Sally Hemmings' story for the first time in her 1960s biography and received much establishment criticism for it at the time. So many years later it is odd not to see her acknowledged in this article. The story tells us much that we need to know about the rich, politicians, and revolutionaries.

  202. I pull out my copy of Fawn Brodie's "Thomas Jefferson, An Intimate History" whenever I read that someone has discovered the relationship between Jefferson and Hemings. Published in 1974, it includes "Reminiscences of Madison Hemings" and "Reminiscences of Israel Jefferson" as Appendix I, Parts 1 and 2.

  203. Fawn Brody wrote another amazing and highly critical biography, "No Man Knows My History," about Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon church. She was a Mormon herself.

  204. Yes, it's been a long time coming, but I appreciate that this is finally coming to light. It sounds like the board, the curators, the docents, and everyone else who works there and is involved with it has done a lot of hard work to get to this point. Congratulations.

  205. One way to look at Sally Hemings is as just a victim. Another is to look at her is as someone who made the most of the agency she had to get a better life for herself and her children than the unjust system of slavery would ordinarily have given them. Her circumstances were unique, she recognized that, even at a young age, and played her hand exceptionally well over a long period. It is a mistake to her see her only as a victim. To do that ignores her intelligence, character, determination and humanity. I am glad the new exhibit uses the voice of her son Madison to help us appreciate her life.

  206. Up til more recently that we want to admit, one woman's rape is another man's love match--whether or not the woman is technically enslaved. When I grew up in the 60s, it was still the case that employment opportunities for women consisted of teaching, clerical work, or sales rep, with barely subsistence pay and a life of lonely childlessness unless you married someone, who then essentially still owned you. Divorce (entirely prohibited for Catholics) was social and economic suicide; therapy told you you had penis envy; James Bond-type assaults on women were "romantic"; marital rape wasn't rape, legally or otherwise. The spectrum of consent, as they say nowadays, had complex intersection for ALL women throughout most of history.

  207. The slave trade and sex/rape; this is not Tmz. White men raped black women that is a fact. Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner and Sally Hemmings was 14. That is the truth.

  208. "“The charge is an extremely serious charge against him,” said Mary Kelley, a sculptor from Chevy Chase, Md., who took a tour of Monticello in 2013 and was shocked by what she considered to be the guide’s negative tone about a man she has always idolized. Afterward, she joined the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society, a group that was formed to dispute the growing historical consensus that Jefferson fathered Hemings’s children. Now Ms. Kelley hunts down clues about who else could have fathered Hemings’s children and writes articles criticizing the plans for the Sally Hemings exhibit. She even created an artistically rendered drawing of the DNA used in the 1998 paternity test, and plans to attend a coming conference in Charlottesville, where heritage society members will share papers they have written. “Some nights I just curl up in the semidark and just read his letters,” she says of Jefferson. “He just doesn’t seem to be a person who would do this.”' So let me get this straight; because you idolize Jefferson, your goal in life is to discredit scientific proof that Jefferson didn't father children with a black woman? LOL. It is pretty clear which side of the political spectrum you belong to and that you most definitely have a hatred for brown people. Sit down and shut up! Jefferson was a slave owner and he had relations with Sally Hemmings that resulted in him fathering many children on her. Jefferson was a slave-owner and that has never been disputed. Facts are facts

  209. “There are a lot of people who believe rape is too polarizing a word,” Harvey Weinstein for one.

  210. About time.

  211. Sally Hemmings was Thomas Jefferson's SISTER IN LAW. If you don't tell that part of the story, you miss a big part.

  212. Don’t you wonder that American’s mixed up belief system about race and individual rights has something to do with the contradictions of our “founding fathers”? If Jefferson is our “Founding Father,” is Hemmings our “Founding Mother”?

  213. Jefferson's sexual life with Sally Hemmings has ratcheted up the meaning of sexual harrassment. A conversation about sexual harassment is often a conversation about power. Look at the Weinstein case. However, here, Jefferson actually OWNED Sally as he owned his dining room table (is it worth $31,000)(oops, wrong story). She had no standing in the community where she could go to the legal system for redress. In the constitution, " Negro" women are not even mentioned and at least a black man was 3/5 of a man. What was the worth of a woman? People can weave a romance into this uneven power situation to make it more palatable, but it was power then and it is power now. 431,000

  214. Well, it's about time. Jefferson was this nation's supreme hypocrite. He used the logic of his great mind to declare Africans "sub-human", and because they were they could be enslaved. Jefferson then had the unmitigated gall to humiliate even further one of his slaves by taking her as his concubine. How could we revere such a horrible human? Let me put it this way: How could White America revere Jefferson? He was a reprehensible human being who was given an historical pass because of the place he holds in American History, a history which has deluded itself into believing it is the greatest country on earth. How could that be? A nation which revels in its greatness that could elect Trump as its president has a lot of chutzpah being so boastful. In fact, from Washington, Jefferson to Trump, the US should hang its head in shame. Don't bother spouting all those flimsy excuses of all the good the US has done. In my heart and mind the US can never make up for the way it grabbed power. The US has been on a two centuries-old lucky streak. It has finally shown itself for the nation it truly is, one which would elect Trump as its president. And that is a shame that Americans will never be able to justify no more than the enslavement of an entire race. DD Manhattan

  215. Let's see: Jefferson bought and sold human beings like cattle, but he was incapable of sexual assault, being too noble? QED. yup, but the reverse.

  216. It is utterly ridiculous to apply 21st. century standards and morals to an 18th. century individual.Movements can go just so far, then they are in danger of losing credibility, and becoming ridiculous. Tom Franzson Brevard NC

  217. Except he was writing about--and advocating-- liberty and freedom at the time. There is some irony if not hypocrisy there.

  218. Dodging the question of whether or not Thomas Jefferson raped Sally Hemings seems like an effort to protect Jefferson’s reputation. Jefferson was a kidnapper since he enslaved human beings and forced them to work for him. He was also a rapist since Hemings had no choice but to have sex with him. It makes one wonder how many other Black women he may have raped since it was certainly common during that time.

  219. Everyone avoids the simplest explanation: they were married. Sally Hemmings was the half-sister of Jefferson's wife. She was raised as a SISTER not as a slave. She lived freely in the Jefferson household because she was a family member, not a slave. Only the outside world considered her a slave. In the family, she was just the sister. According to reports, totally white. When Jefferson's wife died, Sally cared for the child -- her niece. Then she married Jefferson in a private ceremony with discreet support from family. Jefferson never married again and never had affairs...why would he? Because he already had a wife. For 40 years. All of this would have 100% fit the customs of the time. A younger sister would have certainly offered to marry him, if her older sister died. In colonial society that was normal and considered ideal. She was 14/15 at the time. Normal age for a woman to marry in those times. Yes he fathered many children...with his second wife. Then freed them all. His other slaves...no. A complex life indeed.

  220. Marriage was prohibited by law between the "races." Concubinage of black women by white men was not.

  221. An enslaved woman cannot choose whether she wants to have sex with the man that owns her. For those struggling to come to terms with Jefferson's racism, read it in his own words starting with, "Notes on Virginia". Not only was Sally Hemmings enslaved, she was 14 and Thomas Jefferson 44 when their sexual encounters began. Are their people that really believe that rape only exists if a woman is assualted in a back alley?

  222. If memory serves me correctly, Jefferson my have wanted slaves freed and returned to Africa. Why? He felt there was no way blacks could live with whites after what had been done to them by enslaving them. African-Americans have more than earned a full seat at every table. Ppl like Van Jones and Sunny Hostin say they are the first generation born with full rights ... and slavery was ended in 1863. There’s ZERO place for racism in this country. We need the best from everyone.

  223. If I remember correctly my visit to Monticello some years ago, Sally Hemings was not only a 'wedding present' to Jefferson by his father in law (along with a number of other slaves), the 'white slave owner, who was her father, was the father in law. Which, if correct, would make Sally Hemings into the half-sister of Jefferson's (deceased) wife. If correct, to me, this would be far more 'relevant' than any discussion of 'skin colour' ... although the children of Sally Hemings and Jefferson, who were so grandly given freedom, would have had only 25% African American blood in them ... At what percentage does hypocrisy stop?

  224. The dna tells the truth It may be a historical site. But if there is any law in this country That slave is entitled to at least A portion Or all the revenue. Some how there is a part of me that knows the slaves should should have money that is owed to them.I know some Farmers who are happy to say they let their blacks eat in the kitchkin. Slavery is dead in law but not in some southern minds.A quote from way back .Instead of being the sons of heroes .we are the sons of slaves. The south has to raise up everyone together

  225. Of course it was rape. She was considered property. She never even had the option to say no. Just because it may not have been physically violent doesn't mean it wasn't deeply wrong.

  226. The fact that we are still having a discussion about whether or not Hemings was raped by Jefferson is discouraging. She was a slave and he was her master. This is not consensual sex folks, and if it's not consensual sex it's.....rape. The article also skillfully avoids the age difference between Jefferson and Hemings. I can't help but wonder if this is not to upset some Jefferson fans out there. The idea that their relationship was born out of love, just buys into the false narrative of the Nice Slave Owner. Here we are still romanticizing slavery for fear of stepping on a few toes. No, the buying and selling of human beings is, by definition, not "nice."

  227. Regarding the question of whether or not Jefferson raped Sally Hemings, yes he did. Jefferson enslaved her, and that alone meant that Hemings had no options when it came to her declining his sexual advances; let alone an opportunity to actually find a husband. Think about it, what woman would willing choose to have sex with and bare children by her captor???

  228. So Sally Hemings is our first black First Lady (or bi-racial like Meghan Markle, whose wedding we just celebrated). She and the widower Thomas Jefferson were together for 37 years. Common Law marriage is about 7 years, so 37 years and 6 or 7 kids would seem to qualify. They began a relationship in 1789 in Paris, so by 1801 (Jefferson's Inauguration) they had been together 12 years with several kids, and had a few more in the White House years, although she lived at Monticello. Therefore we had Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, and Sally Hemings. Our first three First Ladies. Amazing. Before First Lady Michelle Obama, we had First Lady Sally Hemings. A 16 year-old black girl, living in Paris, agrees to return to a slave republic with a man 30 years her senior. Why? There's a novel here, a big novel. Could it be the Great American Novel we have been waiting for? Where is Mailer when we need him? This teenager sails across the Atlantic and finesses a life for herself and her children that it would take a gifted novelist to imagine. How bright and clever must this uneducated girl have been? Why she probably had not much more education than Abraham Lincoln. Yet she can deal with maybe our most brilliant founding father. Is there a young, gifted, and black teenage girl out there, dreaming of a life in literature, and about to tell us this story?

  229. It could also be seen as Jefferson owning and enjoying having sex with a young teen that he owned. And that she did her best to make the best of the situation.

  230. Rape is to polarizing but slavery isn’t. Of course, we are project images of slavery where the blacks were not treated anywhere as bad as it must have been. It was only when Castro in Ohio held three white women captive for numerous years that I heard the media describe slavery as horrific. Hemings was Jefferson’s property that he did not free. She was never freed and wasn’t given the right to dissent. If it was a love story, Jefferson would have freed her and moved her into his quarters. She made the bargain to be compliant so her children could be free.

  231. Consider women could not vote 100 years after Sally Hemings puts context into the discussion IMO. White women were pretty much the property of white men in 1770 and one could argue in semi slavery in some cases. Righteousness floats on the tide of compromise in the real world.

  232. Sally Hemmings was most likely a sexual partner for Thomas Jefferson. She was his property, so she had no choice which makes it assault? Then that is the case of every married woman of the era. The wife was property of the husband and had no choice under the law. I’m not trying to diminish a slave’s lot, but let us not forget the truth that was a woman’s position at the time of the Revolution.

  233. If we imagine a man inhabiting the 18th century equivalent of Trump tower at one end of the spectrum, and Thomas Jefferson perhaps at the other end of the spectrum, we might have encapsulated the range of options facing women in the orbit of powerful men in early slaveholding America. (Yeah, I'm pretty sure Trump would have owned slaves if given the opportunity.) One is an admitted beauty pageant organizer, sexual predator and serial philanderer with no moral compass. The other was a deist and man of the enlightenment who wrote in soaring language about the rights of men (well, white male landowners). He favored an agrarian society that placed men like himself at the pinnacle of society. Apart from his wife and her half sister, Sally Hemmings, we know of no other women involved intimately with Jefferson. (But I've no doubt detailed DNA analyses will eventually tell many, many unexpected tales of paternity spanning all strata and epochs of society.) For countless generations women of all stations have largely been at the mercy of the men in their lives. People made the whole range of accommodations in their sexual relationships, but have sex they did. All too often it may have been ugly or reprehensible. But it could have been fulfilling or at least a leg up for the next generation (think offspring of Trump wives). I'd like to think Thomas and Sally loved each other, but who knows. Who will ever know? But Sally Hemming was technically a slave but more European by blood

  234. Jefferson, while intellectually a man ahead of his times was day to day a man of his times. Jeffersons place in society, and his ongoing economic well being may have been tied up in his ongoing slave ownership. It would have been nice to think his slaves were "well treated". But, who knows. The slaves knew no different, and apparently neither did Jefferson at the end of the day.

  235. It's likely that Sally Hemings was a quadroon, making her one quarter African American. If Jefferson was indeed the father of her children, which seems very likely, they would have been one-eighth African American. According to Madison Hemings, two of his siblings passed as white for their entire adult lives. Two did not--think he did not, but can't remember.

  236. Women in general had no rights back then. They were essentially owned by men. The rights of women were not even under consideration at all back then. A father could do to his daughter as he wanted and a husband could do as he wanted to his wife. So in that sense, it's hard to see any sex back when as having been consensual. Especially not within marriage.