THEY DID NOT JUST FUCKING GIVE EMMA STONE AN OSCAR FOR THAT. OVER ISABELLE. OVER NATALIE. OVER RUTH. OVER MERRYL. WHAT DID EMMA DO THAT WAS CHALLENGING? WHAT DID EMMA DO THAT WAS GROUNDBREAKING? WHAT DID EMMA DO THAT WILL BE REMEMBERED 50 YEARS FROM NOW? SHE PLAYED A POORLY WRITTEN WHITE ACTRESS THE WAY 100 OTHER WHITE ACTRESSES WOULD’VE PLAYED. SHE FUCKING PLAYED HERSELF. THIS IS FUCKING INSULTING TO THE CRAFT OF ACTING. IT IS
“When I was auditioning… they would send me the log lines of the character and if it said beautiful or gorgeous or pretty even they would delete it before they sent it me, because I would immediately call them and go ‘I will not be cast, It’s not going to happen!’ Not to put myself down or anything but I just always wanted to be a comedian.” [x]
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.
A while back I posted about how Sally Hemings’s children should stop being treated as a faceless monolith and should start being treated as individuals, so here’s some info on them. There were four surviving children, all of whom were house slaves until their twenties. While under Virginia’s law of you-are-what-your-mother-is they were enslaved, before the age of the One Drop Rule, being less than one-quarter black, they were also considered “legally white”, and were prepared throughout their lives to eventually enter the white world. According to Madison Hemings, when it came to Jefferson’s role as their father: “He was not in the habit of showing partiality or fatherly affection to us children. We were the only children of his by a slave woman. He was affectionate toward his white grandchildren, of whom he had fourteen, twelve of whom lived to manhood and womanhood.”
Unlike other Hemingses, Sally either chose, or more likely was not allowed to, name any of them after the other members of the Hemings family. All of the children were named after people important to Jefferson.
William Beverley Hemings (1798 - unknown)
Named after the man who opened the west to Virginia, Beverley was the oldest son and the one we know the least about. Growing up, he was put under the patronage of his uncle John Hemings to learn carpentry. To be shaped like Jefferson, he also learned music and also became interested in ballooning. In 1822, at age twenty-three he ran away from Monticello (two years past the promised date of freedom) to Washington, and Jefferson purposely chose not to pursue. There he recreated his life as a white man. In Maryland he married an unknown white woman, where they had one known daughter. Beverley eventually cut off contact with his black family, and that was where he became lost to history.
Harriet Hemings (1801 - unknown)
The only surviving daughter, Harriet was named after an older sister who died in childhood. Instead of becoming a maid to one of Jefferson’s granddaughters, Harriet was taught by her mother to spin and weave, as well as other domestic tasks expected from women of her time. She left at age twenty-one, in 1822 to join her brother Beverley, and Jefferson purposely chose not to pursue (instructing his overseer instead to give her $50), making her the only woman Jefferson ever “freed”. There, she passed for white, married an unnamed white man, had several children, and cut off contact with her black family.
James Madison Hemings (1805 - 1877)
Named by Dolley Madison (who had promised Sally a gift in exchange for naming her son after her husband, but according to Madison Hemings Dolley never kept her promise). Like Beverley, he was apprenticed to his uncle and taught music. At almost twenty-two years of age, he was freed shortly after Jefferson’s death in 1826, and along with his brother Eston rented a house with their mother (who was never freed but instead given “her time” by Jefferson’s daughter) in Virginia until Sally’s death in 1835. Madison was the only one of his siblings to keep his identity as a black man. He married a biracial woman, Mary Hughes McCoy in 1834. In 1836, they moved to Ohio, where Madison worked as a carpenter. In his old age, he was approached by S.F. Wetmore to give a memoir, which was published in Ohio’s Pike County Republican in 1873, where he publicly named Thomas Jefferson as his father, gave the history of his mother and her role as Jefferson’s “concubine”, and his own life in slavery. While some of Madison’s descendants passed for white, many continued his legacy of consciously choosing to remain in the black community.
Thomas Eston Hemings Jefferson (1808 - 1889)
Named for Thomas Eston Randolph, Eston, like Beverley and Madison, was apprenticed to John Hemings in carpentry. He is the most famous son of the lot, since it was from his descendants’ DNA that connected the Hemings line to Jefferson. He was said to look the most physically like Jefferson, and also emulated his passion for music, making a living as a musician on the violin and piano. While Jefferson’s will dictated he’d be free at twenty-one, he, like his mother, was given “his time” and was freed earlier. He married a biracial woman Julia Ann Isaacs. Following his brother Madison to Ohio, Eston at first continued to live life as a black man, but later moved to Wisconsin, and passed for white, adopting the last name Jefferson. Apparently unlike Beverley and Harriet, Eston never completely cut ties with his black family, and his descendants moved back and forth between the color line.
More information can be found in Annette Gordon-Reed’s The Hemingses of Monticello, and Lucia C. Stanton‘s “Those Who Labor for My Happiness”: Slavery at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.
It was always my dream to act, absolutely. It’s a great gift to be in a company of people like this and to be at places like the SAG awards and all of that. But that’s not anything I ever really dreamed of, I’m just happy to get to be an actor, period.