- NAME: Sally Hemings
- BIRTH DATE: c. 1773
- DEATH DATE: 1835
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Shadwell, Albermarle County, Virginia
- PLACE OF DEATH: Charlottesville, Virginia
Best Known For
Sally Hemings was an enslaved African-American woman who’s believed to have had several children with one-time U.S. president Thomas Jefferson.
A look at the private life of Thomas Jefferson, and the reputed sexual relationship he had with one of his own slaves, Sally Hemings.
Thomas Jefferson had a 37 year relationship and fathered several children with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings.
Sojourner Truth was born into slavery and escaped to freedom. Her prominence quickly rose when she advocated for the abolition of slavery and women's rights. She is best known for her speech "Ain't I a Woman?"
Thomas Jefferson wrote the "Head and Heart" letter to Mariah Causeway.
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Jefferson's direct descendants, Thomas Jefferson Randolph and Ellen Randolph Coolidge, stood by the conclusion that either Peter or Samuel Carr (both Jefferson's nephews) had fathered Hemings's children.
The Jefferson-Hemings debate was renewed in the 1970s with the publication of historian Fawn McKay Brodie's biography of Jefferson, which assumed her alleged relationship with Jefferson to be true,
as well as a best-selling fictionalized account of Hemings's life written by novelist Barbara Chase-Riboud. In 1997, another historian, Annette Gordon-Reed, published Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, which stated that historians had underestimated the amount of evidence supporting the truth of the relationship.
In November 1998, dramatic new scientific evidence became available through the analysis of the DNA of male descendants of Hemings, Jefferson, Samuel and Peter Carr, and Woodson. After comparing the Y-chromosome component of the DNA of five descendants of Jefferson's paternal uncle, Field Jefferson, with that of a descendant of another of Hemings's sons, Eston (born 1808), Dr. Eugene Foster of the University of Virginia matched certain portions of the DNA, linking the Hemings family to the Jefferson bloodline. (According to DNA researchers, the odds of a perfect match in a random sample are less than one in a thousand.) The study also found no match between the Hemings and Carr DNA, and showed that Thomas Woodson's father was not a Jefferson. In response to Foster's DNA evidence, in January 2000, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation stated its belief that Jefferson and Hemings had in fact been sexual partners, and that Jefferson was the father of Hemings's six children—including Beverly, Harriet, Madison and Eston—born between 1790 and 1808.
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