Sally (Sarah) Hemings was born a slave, owned by Thomas Jefferson, in 1773. She started out as caretaker of Jefferson’s daughters, and eventually accompanied them to be with their father in Paris in 1787. For two years she lived with Jefferson and his family in Paris, during this time two things happened. Hemings became involved with Thomas, becoming pregnant with his child. She also began to get a taste of what being a free woman could be like. She began learning the French language and culture, and she realized that if she were to stay in France, she could be deemed a free woman.
Jefferson had different plans, he planned for Sally to return back to Virginia with him. He wanted her to return with him so badly that he promised her extended privileges, including a promise that her children shall be named free after the age of 21. While there is little evidence of their affection for each other, it is clear that Sally must have cared deeply for Jefferson to give up a chance at freedom. Even with the privileges Jefferson gifted her with, she would still be returning to a country that viewed her as property instead of a human being.
This choice to return back to Virginia leads me to believe that the core of Sally Hemings identity was being a woman, not being born a slave. She had a chance Very simply Kerber states “it is doubtful that Hemings thought being a slave was more at the core of her existence than being female; she could cease to be the one, never the other.” Being a woman also afforded her certain privileges that she would not have had as a male slave. She was never sent to the fields as other slaves were, she was chosen to tend to the home instead. While she was not free, her situation was not that much different than many free women of her time. She bared children and cared for the home, while her relationship with Jefferson could never be public, its clear he cared for and supported her. I doubt the Hemings ever truly felt like a slave.