Hope that you are enjoying this July 4th with family and friends.
Today’s article is about one of the Founding Fathers – one who wrote the Declaration of Independence…
America’s original sin- SLAVERY.
New Monticello exhibit takes a closer look at Sally Hemings, slavery and the healing power of truth
The exhibit is a reminder that white men of wealth and power have long controlled who was considered a citizen in America and who was considered a family.
by Sophia A. Nelson / Jul.01.2018
In an 1873 interview with the Pike County Republican newspaper, Madison Hemings, thesecond son of Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings, told a story. It was a story that would confirm the decades of rumors that had circulated since Jefferson ran for president in 1801.
Madison Hemings began his recollection of his parent’s taboo relationship with these words:
“But during that time (in Paris) my mother became Mr. Jefferson’s concubine, and when he was called back home she was [pregnant] by him. He desired to bring my mother back to Virginia with him, but she demurred. She was just beginning to understand the French language well, and in France she was free, while if she returned to Virginia she would be re-enslaved. So, she refused to return with him. To induce her to do so he promised her extraordinary privileges and made a solemn pledge that her children should be freed at the age of twenty-one years. In consequence of his promise, on which she implicitly relied, she returned with him to Virginia.”
On June 16, 2018, at Thomas Jefferson’s ancestral home, Monticello, descendants of Hemings and Jefferson reunited to help unveil, among other important exhibits, the newly discovered living quarters of Hemings and her children.
It was an important moment for Monticello, which has embarked on a 25-year-long project to reinterpret and update its historical spaces to be more inclusive and honest about the people who lived and were enslaved there. But there is also something very timely about the exhibit given the current political climate.
As we debate the immigration and border crisis in Texas right now, we are reminded that this is not the first time in American history that children have been separated from their parents, treated inhumanely, or even caged.
This anecdote from Madison Hemings’ memoirs, read by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon Reed at the unveiling, underscores that larger and important truth. “We were always allowed to be with our mother,” Reed read.
There was a hush of silence as she shared those words, because everyone understood that Sally Hemings had “negotiated” with Jefferson, as a 16-year-old teenage girl, not only for freedom for each of their children, but also for what Madison called “extraordinary” privileges that other slave women did not have. One of these privileges was having her children near her and with her all of the time. She also ensured that her children would never be sold away from her, something every slave woman knew was a possibility.
Read the rest of the article at the link.