1735, a man named Hemings, the white English captain of a trading ship, fathered a daughter with a “full-blooded African” woman. The African woman’s child was named Elizabeth. The mother and daughter ended up as slaves of the Eppes family- the Eppes family from which John Wayles (Thomas Jefferson’s father in law) would marry his first wife, Martha. 1746- the year Wayles married Martha Eppes- Elizabeth Hemings, then about eleven years old, moved to the Wayles property. 1761, Elizabeth was taken by John Wayles into concubine and she bore five children to him, Robert Hemings, James Hemings, Thenia Hemings, Critta Hemings an Peter Hemings. In 1773, she gave birth to a sixth child: Sarah “Sally” Hemings.
Thomas Jefferson married Martha Wayles Skelton on New Year’s Day 1772. Martha, was a daughter of John Wayles. Through his marriage ,Jefferson acquired more slaves, later receiving Elizabeth Hemings, whose daughter, Sally, who would be born months later- was a half-sister of Martha Jefferson, after Wayles’s death. Martha Jefferson chose to keep the Hemings family together after her father’s death by bringing them onto her land. Jefferson payed a midwife to deliver Elizabeth’s son John. Nearly noon on Friday, September 6, 1782 Martha Jefferson died. Her house servants- including Elizabeth Hemings, were among those with Martha as she lay dying. In her last pledges to her husband, she told him to never marry again- Sally Hemings who was witness to this was not quite ten years old yet. Among one of the last things she did, Martha handed Sally a tiny silver servant bell as a gift.
1784, when Thomas Jefferson accepted a position as ambassador of France, he brought with him his eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson, and James Hemings- son of Elizabeth Hemings and brother of Sally Hemings. Jefferson had intentions to train James to be a cook of French food. June 26th, 1787, Jefferson was able to get his daughter, Mary “Polly” Jefferson whom he’d left in the company of family along with his now deceased younger daughter Lucy Elizabeth Jefferson over to France to join him and Patsy in attempt to recreate his family. Polly arrived in London and was handed into the care of Abigail Adams, with the youngest Jefferson was Sally Hemings. “The old nurse whom you expected to have attended her was sick and unable to come, Abigail Adams wrote to Jefferson, “She has a girl about about 15 or 16 with her, the sister of the servant you have with you.” Abigail also told she is “quite like a child” and required more care than Polly- who was five year younger. She inquired about sending Sally back to Virginia.
There are no known images of Sally Hemings. On arrival in Europe, Sally was fourteen years of age, and had very light skin, “almost white” and “very handsome, with long straight hair down her back”. There was some resemblance between Sally Hemings and Jefferson’s late wife Martha Jefferson. Abigail Adams also described Sally as, “…she seems fond of the child and appears good natured.” Polly Jefferson and Sally arrived in Paris on July 15th, 1787. She probably ran errands and served as a chambermaid as well as a seamstress. She accompanied Patsy and Polly to dances and dinners, Jefferson spent a considerable sum in 1789 on clothing for Sally. While in Dusseldorf, Jefferson found himself fascinated by a 1699 painting by the Dutch artist Adriaen van der Werff of Abraham taking the young servant Hagar to his bed. The Virginian described it as, “delicious. I would have agreed to have been Abraham though the consequence would have been that I should have been five or six thousand years.”
Since her arrival in France, Sally had been paid some small wages- twelve livres a month for ten months. Jefferson had bought clothing for her and had her inoculated against smallpox. Sally’s day routine is less clear, though she may have served the Jefferson daughters as a maid at the convent school during part of her time in Paris. It was during the years of 1788 and 1789 that Thomas Jefferson began his sexual activity with Sally Hemings (then only fifteen or sixteen years old). The emotional content of the Jefferson-Hemings “relationship” is a mystery. Some say he loved her, and vice versa. Others argue it was coercive, institutionalized rape. If someone is your property, it is impossible for you to ask consent before sexual acts because they are “property” to you, property cannot give consent. No consent before sex is rape. All those who were slaves brought into concubine with their masters were raped- property cannot give consent because they are owned by another human being. It was not love, it was rape. Property cannot give consent. Sally Hemings might of been doing what she had to do to survive an evil system, accepting sexual duty as an element of her enslavement and using what leverage she had to improve the lot of her children.
“Recently, as they have become better educated and connected, Queen Mothers have started to reclaim their traditional role – and modernise it. They see it as a powerful tool for change for women and girls across the country, and are networking with their counterparts in other African countries. Together, they are playing an increasingly important role in the continent’s battle for girls’ education and against female genital mutilation (FGM), early marriage, poverty and other issues.
‘Now we are taking our place,’ says Eyiaba I, as amid much traditional dancing and drumming, 10 Queen Mothers are sworn into the national council for a four-year tenure, giving their association formal recognition. ‘Our societies are male-dominated. We need women in our communities – to represent, listen and talk for the women of our country. We are powerful and people need us.’
They are planning an international conference next year on the theme of child protection and are working toward eliminating FGM across Africa within the next five years.”
Why you didn’t pay attention when the teacher was talking?
Said by an African American mother/father when helping a child with their homework and the parent does not know the answer. Usually followed by a hard lash when the parent gets frustrated because they can’t figure it out. African American Proverb: Black Parent Edition