Sally Hemings

Most Influential Person

American woman

Why Is Sally Hemings Influential?

According to Wikipedia, Sarah "Sally" Hemings was a biracial enslaved woman who was owned by President of the United States Thomas Jefferson. She was also half-sister to Jefferson's deceased wife, Martha Jefferson . During the 26 months she lived with Jefferson in Paris, she was a free woman and a paid servant, slavery not being legal in France. During this time, under circumstances that are not well understood, she and Jefferson began having intimate relations. As attested by her son, Madison Hemings, she later negotiated with Jefferson that she would return to Virginia and resume her slave status as long as all their children would be emancipated upon turning 21. Multiple lines of evidence, including modern DNA analyses, indicate that Jefferson impregnated Hemmings over the span of many years, and historians now broadly agree that he was the father of her six children. It remains a matter of controversy as to whether this should be described as rape. Four of Hemings' children survived into adulthood. Hemings died in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1835. The historical question of whether Jefferson was the father of Hemings' children is the subject of the Jefferson–Hemings controversy. Following renewed historical analysis in the late 20th century and a 1998-1999 genealogical DNA test that was published in 2000 that found a match between the Jefferson male line and a descendant of Hemings' youngest son, Eston Hemings, the Monticello Foundation asserted that Jefferson fathered Eston and likely her other five children as well. There are some who disagree. In 2018, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation of Monticello announced its plans to have an exhibit titled Life of Sally Hemings, and affirmed that it was treating as a settled issue that Jefferson was the father of her known children. The exhibit opened in June 2018.

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