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Hemings, Sally

  • By: Roshaunda D. Cade
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

Sarah “Sally” Hemings (1773–1835) was Thomas Jefferson's slave. Many scholars are in agreement that their relationship was sexual. The controversy around the pair lies largely in two points: whether their relationship was consensual, and whether Jefferson fathered Hemings' children.

Hemings was the daughter of John Wayles and Elizabeth Hemings. Wayles was also father to Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson's wife, making Martha Jefferson and Sally Hemings half sisters. Martha Wayles Skelton and Thomas Jefferson wed in 1772. When John Wayles died in 1773, ownership of the Hemings family transferred to Thomas Jefferson.

After Martha Jefferson died in 1782, Thomas Jefferson accepted a diplomatic appointment in France and sailed for Paris in 1784. Jefferson's eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson, and Hemings's brother, James Hemings, accompanied Jefferson. Later, ...

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