The Info List - Harriet Hemings

Harriet Hemings
Harriet Hemings
(May 1801 – 1870) was born into slavery at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States, in the first year of his presidency. Most historians believe her father is Jefferson, who is believed by many historians to have fathered with his slave Sally Hemings
Sally Hemings
four children who survived to adulthood. While Jefferson did not legally free Harriet, in 1822 when she was 21, he aided her "escape".[1] He saw that she was put in a stage coach and given $50 for her journey. Her brother Madison Hemings
Madison Hemings
later said she had gone to Washington, DC, to join their older brother Beverley Hemings, who had similarly left Monticello
earlier that year. Both entered into white society and married white partners of good circumstances. Seven-eighths European in ancestry, all the Hemings children were legally white under Virginia law at the time, in accordance of which they inherited the status of their enslaved mother. Jefferson freed the two youngest brothers in his will of 1826, so they were legally free. Beverly and Harriet stayed in touch with their brother Madison Hemings for some time, and then Harriet stopped writing. According to his 1873 account, both siblings had children.


1 Early life and education 2 Life after Monticello 3 Question of relationship 4 In popular culture 5 See also 6 References 7 External links 8 Bibliography

Early life and education[edit] Main article: Sally Hemings In 1773 Jefferson and his wife Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson
Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson
had inherited Sally Hemings, her mother Betty Hemings and ten siblings from the estate of her father John Wayles, along with more than 100 other slaves. The widower Wayles had had a 12-year relationship with Betty Hemings and six mixed-race children with her. They were three-quarters European and Sally was the youngest. They were half siblings to Jefferson's wife. As the historians Philip D. Morgan and Joshua D. Rothman have written, there were numerous interracial relationships in the Wayles-Hemings-Jefferson families, Albemarle County and Virginia, often with multiple generations repeating the pattern.[2][3] Harriet is believed to be the daughter of Sally Hemings
Sally Hemings
and the widower Thomas Jefferson. It is widely believed that Jefferson and Hemings had a 38-year secret relationship beginning in Paris
several years after the early death of his wife. Hemings was said to have a child born in 1790 after she returned from Paris, but it died as an infant. Hemings' first daughter who was recorded, was born in 1795. She was named Harriet but she died in infancy. This name was prominent among women in Jefferson's family.[4] It was customary to name the next child of the same sex after one who had died. Harriet's surviving siblings were her older brother William Beverley, called Beverley; and younger brothers James Madison
James Madison
and Thomas Eston Hemings. Like the other Hemings children, Harriet had light duties as a child, which she spent mostly with her mother. At the age of 14, she was started in training to learn weaving and later worked at the cotton factory on the plantation. In 1822 at the age of 21, Harriet left Monticello. Jefferson instructed his overseer Edmund Bacon to give her $50 to help on her journey. Although legally she had escaped and was a "fugitive", Jefferson never tried to persuade her to return or posted notice of escape. Harriet Hemings
Harriet Hemings
was the only female slave he "freed" in his lifetime.[4] Although Jefferson's granddaughter Ellen Randolph Coolidge wrote that he had a policy of allowing nearly white slaves to leave and she recalled four who had,[5] this was not accurate. Jefferson had no such policy and freed few slaves. There were many mixed-race slaves at Monticello, both in the larger Hemings family and other slave families. Coolidge appeared to be trying to cover up his freeing the children of Sally Hemings.[4] Edmund Bacon, chief overseer at Monticello
for about twenty years, described Harriet's gaining freedom:

"Mr. Jefferson freed a number of his servants in his will. . . He freed one girl some years before he died, and there was a great deal of talk about it. She was nearly as white as anybody and very beautiful. People said he freed her because she was his own daughter."[6]

Bacon wrote, "When she was nearly grown, by Mr. Jefferson's direction I paid her stage fare to Philadelphia
and gave her fifty dollars. I have never seen her since and don't know what became of her. From the time she was large enough, she always worked in the cotton factory. She never did any hard work.”[6] Jefferson indirectly and directly freed all four of the Hemings children when they reached the age of 21: Beverley and Harriet were allowed to escape in 1822; the last two sons, Madison and Eston, were freed in his will of 1826. They were the only slave family from Monticello
whose members all achieved freedom.[4] Jefferson's daughter Martha gave Sally Hemings
Sally Hemings
"her time" after his death; this enabled her to leave Monticello
and live freely with her last two sons in Charlottesville for the last decade of her life. In 1794 Jefferson allowed Robert Hemings, one of Sally's brothers, to buy his freedom; in 1796 he freed James Hemings after requiring him to train his replacement chef for three years. He freed another of Sally's brothers and two of her nephews in his will of 1826; they had each served him for decades.[4]

Ancestry of Harriet Hemings; her great-grandmother Susanna was black, all her other great-grandparents were white.

Life after Monticello[edit] In 1873 Harriet's brother Madison Hemings
Madison Hemings
described his siblings and their life at Monticello
and afterward, claiming Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
and Sally Hemings
Sally Hemings
as their parents. He said that Jefferson had promised Hemings when she became his concubine that he would free all her children. His interview was published as a memoir in the Pike County (Ohio) Republican. He said of his sister Harriet: "She thought it to her interest, on going to Washington, [D.C.] to assume the role of a white woman, and by her dress and conduct as such I am not aware that her identity as Harriet Hemings
Harriet Hemings
of Monticello
has ever been discovered."[7] He said that Harriet and Beverly both had children. According to the scholar Annette Gordon-Reed, Harriet likely chose to move to Washington in order to join her brother Beverly, who was already there. Their younger brother Madison said in his 1873 memoir that they had both moved there, where they married and had families. Madison said Harriet later lived in Maryland.[4] While Harriet and Beverly disappeared into history, more is known about the lives of their brothers Madison and Eston Hemings, who married in Charlottesville and began their families there. They both moved to Chillicothe in the free state of Ohio
after their mother died in 1835. (See Madison Hemings
Madison Hemings
and Eston Hemings.) Question of relationship[edit] Main article: Jefferson-Hemings controversy The Jefferson-Hemings controversy
Jefferson-Hemings controversy
concerns the question of whether, after Jefferson became a widower, he had an intimate relationship with his mixed-race slave, Sally Hemings, resulting in his fathering her six children of record. The controversy dates from the 1790s. In the late 20th century historians began reanalyzing the body of evidence. In 1997, Annette Gordon-Reed
Annette Gordon-Reed
published a book that analyzed the historiography of the controversy, demonstrating how historians since the 19th century had accepted early assumptions and failed to note all the facts.[4] A consensus began to emerge after the results of a DNA analysis in 1998, which showed no match between the Carr male line, proposed for more than 150 years as the father(s), and the one Hemings descendant tested. It did show a match between the Jefferson male line and the Hemings descendant. Since 1998 and the DNA study, many historians have accepted that the widower Jefferson had a long intimate relationship with Hemings, and fathered six children with her, four of whom survived to adulthood. The Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Foundation (TJF), which runs Monticello, conducted an independent historic review in 2000, as did the National Genealogical Society in 2001; both reported scholars who concluded Jefferson was likely the father of all of Hemings' children.[8][9] Critics, such as the Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Heritage Society (TJHS) Scholars Commission (2001), have argued against the TJF report. They have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to determine that Jefferson was the father of Hemings's children. The TJHS report suggested that Jefferson's younger brother Randolph Jefferson could have been the father, but no known evidence is shown.[10] In popular culture[edit]

William Wells Brown, Clotel; or, The President's Daughter, 1853, Project Gutenberg Etext, University of Vermont Wolf by the Ears (1991) by Ann Rinaldi

See also[edit]

John Wayles Jefferson


^ Joelene McDonald Setlock, " Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
and Sally Hemings: When oral traditions, DNA, and corroborating evidence collide", Looking Glass, Ohio
University. ^ Philip D. Morgan (1999). "Interracial Sex In the Chesapeake and the British Atlantic World c. 1700-1820". In Jan Lewis, Peter S. Onuf. Sally Hemings
Sally Hemings
& Thomas Jefferson: History, Memory, and Civic Culture. University of Virginia Press. ISBN 978-0-8139-1919-5. CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link) ^ Joshua D. Rothman, Notorious in the Neighborhood: Sex and Interracial Relationships Across the Color Line in Virginia, 1787-1861, University of North Carolina Press, 2003. ^ a b c d e f g Annette Gordon-Reed, Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, University of Virginia Press, 1997, pp. 210-223. ^ In reference to Harriet, Ellen Randolph Coolidge, a granddaughter of Thomas Jefferson, wrote in 1858: "It was [Jefferson's] principle... to allow such of his slaves as were sufficiently white to pass for white men, to withdraw quietly from the plantation; it was called running away, but they were never reclaimed. I remember four instances of this, three young men and one girl, who walked away and staid away--their whereabouts was perfectly known but they were left to themselves--for they were white enough to pass for white." ^ a b Pierson, Hamilton W. (1862), Jefferson at Monticello: The Private Life of Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
From Entirely New Materials, Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, pp. 103-111. Includes Mr. Jefferson's Servants, by Captain Edmund Bacon. ^ Wetmore, S.F., "Life among the Lowly, No. 1," Pike County Republican, March 13, 1873. ^ " Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
and Sally Hemings: A Brief Account": "Ten years later [referring to its 2000 report], TJF [Thomas Jefferson Foundation] and most historians now believe that, years after his wife's death, Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
was the father of the six children of Sally Hemings
Sally Hemings
mentioned in Jefferson's records, including Beverly, Harriet, Madison and Eston Hemings." Monticello
Website, accessed June 22, 2011. ^ Helen F. M. Leary, National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 89, No. 3, September 2001, pp. 207, 214–218. Leary concluded that "the chain of evidence securely fastens Sally Hemings's children to their father, Thomas Jefferson." ^ "The Scholars Commission on the Jefferson-Hemings Issue" Archived 2015-09-15 at the Wayback Machine., 2001, Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Heritage Society.

External links[edit]

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello Sally Hemings
Sally Hemings
and Her Children The Memoirs of Madison Hemings The Memoirs of Israel Jefferson Edmund Bacon, Mr. Jefferson's Servants, memoir, Thomas Jefferson, PBS Frontline


Nash, Gary B.; Hodges, Graham R. G., Friends of Liberty; Thomas Jefferson, Tadeusz Kosciuszko, and Agrippa Hull. A Tale of Three Patriots, Two Revolutions, and A Tragic Betrayal Of Freedom In The New Nation. New York: Basic Books (387 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016-8810), 2008 Gordon-Reed, Annette (1997), Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, reprint with new foreword discussing DNA evidence, University of Virginia Press, 1998 Gordon-Reed, Annette, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2008

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Thomas Jefferson

3rd President of the United States
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Peter Jefferson
Peter Jefferson
(father) Jane Randolph Jefferson (mother) Lucy Jefferson Lewis (sister) Randolph Jefferson (brother) Isham Randolph (grandfather) William Randolph
William Randolph
(great-grandfather) Martha Jefferson
Martha Jefferson
(wife) Martha Jefferson
Martha Jefferson
Randolph (daughter) Mary Jefferson Eppes (daughter) Harriet Hemings
Harriet Hemings
(daughter) Madison Hemings
Madison Hemings
(son) Eston Hemings
Eston Hemings
(son) Thomas J. Randolph (grandson) Francis Eppes (grandson) George W. Randolph
George W. Randolph
(grandson) John Wayles Jefferson (grandson) Thomas Mann Randolph Jr.
Thomas Mann Randolph Jr.
(son-in-law) John Wayles Eppes (son-in-law) John Wayles (father-in-law) Dabney Carr
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