m. bef. 1753
Facts and Events
Sarah "Sally" Hemings ( 1773 – 1835) was an enslaved woman of mixed race owned by President Thomas Jefferson and reputed to have had a long-term relationship and six children with him, of whom four survived and all gained freedom. The youngest of six siblings by the planter John Wayles and his mulatto slave Betty Hemings, Hemings was three-quarters European and a half-sister of Jefferson's wife, Martha Wayles Skelton.
In 1787, Hemings, at the age of 14, accompanied Jefferson's youngest daughter Mary (Polly) to London and then to Paris, where the widowed Jefferson, 44 years old at the time, was serving as the United States Ambassador to France. Hemings spent two years there. It is believed by some that Jefferson began a sexual relationship with Hemings either in France or soon after their return to Monticello. Hemings had six children of record born into slavery; four survived to adulthood. Hemings was a domestic servant in Jefferson's house until his death.
The historical question of whether Jefferson was the father of Hemings' children is known as the Jefferson–Hemings controversy. Following renewed historic analysis in the late 20th century and a 1998 DNA study that found a match between the Jefferson male line and a descendant of Hemings' last son, Eston Hemings, there is consensus among historians that the widower Jefferson fathered her son Eston Hemings and probably all her children. However, some historians disagree.
Hemings' children lived in Jefferson's house and were trained as domestic servants and artisans. Jefferson freed all of Hemings' children: Beverly, Harriet, Madison, and Eston, as they came of age (they were the only slave family freed by Jefferson). They were seven-eighths European in ancestry, and three of the four entered white society as adults. Their descendants identified as white. Hemings was "given her time", and lived her last nine years freely with her two younger sons in Charlottesville, and saw a grandchild born in the house her sons owned.