Sally Hemings

Sally Hemings was a woman of mixed race. Even though she was enslaved she still had many other privileges that other enslaved women may not have had. Most people who were slaves did not have the opportunity to learn how to read or write, but Sally was able to go into a new country and even learn a new language. Even though she was enslaved, while she lived in Paris she was able to experience a different type of life. She was able to work and be a free citizen while there and was even well taken care of nicely dressed etc. Even her house chores were not too strenuous, she did light things like sewing.

I think that the core of her identity was being a woman, not being enslaved. She was given options as far as what she wanted to when it came to staying in Paris or returning to Virginia. Like most women do, she thought about the life of her children and the opportunities that they could have. Being that she was biracial and Jefferson being a white man, their children were considered to be white. Although she knew that she could live as a free woman in Paris with her brother and start a new life with a new man if she so wished, she chose to return with Jefferson under the condition that her children and herself would be free.

Sally made decisions based on her woman and motherhood. When she returned to Virginia she also made the decision to not be involved with any other male. She felt as though if she bore children from any other man that all her of children would not have the opportunity to be free as well because they would not have any ties to Jefferson. Although, some people tried to make it see like Sally and Jefferson had a relationship based solely on sex, there were things that proved that it was something more. Jefferson made sure that Sally was present in his life and kept his word that her children would be free.

6 thoughts on “Sally Hemings

  1. I love your first paragraph when you say most slaves didn’t get to learn a new language and even know how to read or write but Sally was able to. This shows you how much Jefferson cared for her right there to be able to teach those such important skills is like a Father Daughter Relationship. I bet that not many slaves new the language at all are even knew how to read or write and she did. I have learned so much about Sally from your blog it is amazing !!

  2. Thank you! I enjoyed reading about Sally Hemings. Her story was amazing to me. I viewed her relationship with Jefferson more of a love story in a sense. She could’ve chosen to be free in Paris, where her and her children would have lived a good life. But she chose to go back, which says to me that there was something more between them.

  3. Hi Cassie, I really liked reading your input for Sally Hemings’s and Jefferson’s relationship. I agree with you that Jefferson had a more emotional involvement with her than a strictly sexual one. I thought point you made about Hemings having more opportunities, such as learning a new language in a new country was so important and I’m glad that you included that in your post because Sally did have more opportunities than many women of color would have had at that time. It makes you think about what she could have been sacrificing by going back to Virginia with Jefferson.

  4. Hello Cassie,

    I loved reading your blog post and you make a lot of good points as to why being a woman was the core of Sally’s identity, but to me I see more of a mix between the two. Sally was treated like a concubine by Jefferson and lived in a constant state of fear that she would lose her freedom, so she followed his orders in order to make sure she and her children were free from slavery. She was treated this way because of the stigma that women carried around with them at the time due to societies views. Either way, you’re right that Sally overall made a lot of decisions based on her motherhood and safety.

    Good post!

    1. I agree with you, Megan! I think that society is prone to assuming women’s identity’s are based on their children, and while I do believe that any good parent will be protective of their children and make decisions that ensure their health and safety, it doesn’t strictly mean that is what Sally’s identity is based on. I believe that she made decisions both on maternal instinct and the pressures from the culture at the time that may have presented prejudice against her and her children with Jefferson. I appreciate your insight, Cassie, nice post!

  5. I agree with the fact that she was able to go to Paris and learn so many things such as reading and writing, that an average slave cannot, is amazing. For her to take advantage of all of that, shows that she wanted a better life for herself and children. Although the details of Jefferson can be hard to look past, such as owning hundreds of slaves, there was something between him and Sally that she apparently felt was safe enough to go back to him.

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