once and for all: sally hemings was not thomas jefferson’s “mistress”

July 7, 2017

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that [*almost*] all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” -Thomas Jefferson

Throughout the history of American Slavery, slave women had an experience all of their own. Left at the disposal of both law and society, their sexuality belonged- along with their womb and further womanhood- belonged to their “masters”.

Following the abolition of slavery in 1865 and the subsequent dulling of consciousness that followed- these relationships between master and slave woman (often producing children, aka more slaves, purposefully immortalizing business) began to be recounted as- not ones of rape and ownership, but of unrequited love and conflicted morals. One of the most famous instances of this sedated history is in the tale of Thomas Jefferson and his so-called “mistress” Sally Hemings.

Recently archeologists have uncovered a small room in Jefferson’s Monticello mansion believed to be Hemings. The 14 foot, 8-inch-by-13 foot room- now converted into a men’s room- not only proves her existence, but humanizes her as well.

Sally Hemings– a biracial slave woman is said to have been involved with Jefferson for at least 37 years, bearing at least 6 of his children- was not a “mistress”, she was a slave, and there is nothing romantic about slavery. Those perpetually reluctant to admit “the great” Thomas Jefferson was a man of his time are doing nothing but feeding the misconceptions of this relationship and those like it. Our 3rd president, and the writer of the Declaration of Independence has public records of denouncing African Americans and a biracial future, but as recurring Uncle Tomfoolery should have it, when it comes to preservation of pride and history, the American people as a whole prefer the status quo.

Hopefully, this room’s discovery will start a new conversation, one we should’ve always been having; because by failing to recognize the reality of Hemings status, one is only protecting the system to which she fell victim- and once again, there is nothing romantic about that.