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Thomas Jefferson's love affair with 14-year-old slave girl

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Author Topic: Thomas Jefferson's love affair with 14-year-old slave girl  (Read 16013 times)
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Visiting the 'memory lane' is blissful and free.

« on: December 04, 2008, 07:56:06 am »

As John Chuckman writes - "My goodness, just think of all those old Virginia planters, Thomas Jefferson among them, using their young female slaves for sex. .....

The girl who played the role of Sarah Hemmings in film "Jefferson in Paris"

The slave who stole a president's heart ..

Thomas Jefferson was America's third president who had a passionate love affair with his black slave girl aged 14 who bore him four children.  Her name was Sarah Hemmings.  Yet the name of Sarah Hemmings is mentioned nowhere in the history of the White House.  That's what one would call concealing history!
Like Obama, Sarah Hemings, often known as Sally, was of mixed race and, by all accounts, she was very beautiful.  Sarah was the product of a secret relationship between a white master and his black slave (a practice very common during the slave trade days in America)  ...... she was, nevertheless, a slave: unfree and unable to escape her fate. In fact, according to Virginia law at the time, the children of a slave would also become the property of her master.
Sarah was 14 when she began working for Jefferson, and they are most likely to have first slept together two years later. Jefferson would have been 46.
Her father was John Wayles, a white plantation owner from the southern, slave-owning state of Virginia; her mother, Elizabeth Hemings, was one of his slaves.  Such relationships set a pattern: mixed-race slaves being prized above their more African-looking peers. This applied especially to women, who often had fairer, coffee-coloured skin and flowing black hair.  'Bright mulattoes' were how they were described at the time  -  'bright' signifying the lightness of their skin tone, and mulatto from the Spanish for 'mule' (a cross, of course, between a horse and donkey). Small wonder that the term is now considered politically incorrect.
Many of these women were beautiful, a fact that did not go unnoticed or unexploited by their white owners, many of whom had slave mistresses alongside their white wives or after they had been widowed.   The result was that southern landowners often had two families: an all-white one with the full protection of the law and which would eventually supply the heir to the estate; and a mixed-race family who had no legal rights and remained his property. Sarah Hemings belonged to the latter.
While Jefferson went on to have an affair with Wayles's unofficial, slave daughter, he also married Wayles's legitimate white daughter, Martha Wayles Skelton. To put it another way, Jefferson's wife and his future mistress were half-sisters.
Jefferson married Martha in 1772 and set up home with her in Monticello, the mountain-top house that would eventually become one of the most famous private residences in America.  Martha, a much-admired beauty and accomplished musician but with a delicate constitution, gave birth at least six times, but several babies died and she was weakened with each delivery.  In 1782, she died shortly after giving birth to a daughter. On her death bed  -  with nine-year-old slave girl Sarah apparently in the room  -  she made Jefferson promise he would never marry again. Consumed with grief, he gave her his word.  And yet, this slim, sandy-haired figure of more than 6ft who loved conversation and appreciated a beautiful woman, was only 39. Was he really going to avoid women for the rest of his life?
Following Martha's death, her father's slaves  -  including the Hemings family  -  moved into Monticello full-time and were owned by Jefferson. Five years later, she was taken by Jefferson to Paris, where he had been posted as the U.S ambassador to France.
At this point, their relationship changed. It is believed that Sarah was only 14 (her exact date of birth is unknown), but her precocious looks were already sounding alarm bells.
Abigail Adams  -  a friend of the Jeffersons and wife of John Adams who would go on to be America's second President, but was then ambassador to Britain  -  was concerned and expressed fears about Sarah going to Paris.  These worries, however, were all in vain. And so a beautiful, young girl was sent to live with a widower who was still getting over his grief. To make matters worse, there was no other steadying female influence in the house.  Further temptation, particularly after Sarah became his personal chambermaid.
Slave and servant she may have been, but she was also his dead wife's half-sister  -  she may have looked a little like her, talked a little like her and, before long, she was no doubt moving around his private rooms like her, too.  Nobody knows when temptation became too much for Jefferson or, indeed, how much choice Sarah had in the matter.  Some believe it may have been in the late autumn of 1788 when Jefferson suddenly started paying her a monthly salary.  Others believe it was later, in 1789, when, in just a few months, he spent the equivalent of $1,000 in today's money on new clothes for her. Either way, by the time it came for them to return to the United States, Sarah was pregnant with Jefferson's child. And to make matters worse, Sarah refused to go home.
In France, slavery was illegal and she knew that if she stayed, both she and her baby would be free and could maybe set up home with her brother, James, who had also travelled to Paris with Jefferson and trained as a chef. If she returned to Virginia, both she and her unborn child would become slaves again.

Faced with his lover refusing to budge, Jefferson had to give in. Only by promising that their children would be granted their freedom aged 21 would Sarah agree to accompany him home.
Back in Virginia, the baby died, as so many did at that time. But the relationship between Jefferson and Sarah survived, although affairs of state  -  he was by then America's first Secretary of State under George Washington and later Vice-President to John Adams  -  kept him away from Monticello and her for long periods.  Nevertheless, he made little effort to conceal a relationship that would produce four children and last a further three decades, until his death in 1826.
Yet in that openness .. revealed the depth of his care for Sarah, he left himself vulnerable to attack from his political enemies.  And, as his political career developed, there was soon no shortage of those.  It was shortly after the birth of their first son, William Beverly, in 1798 that the first allusions to his parents' relationship were published in the Press.

But it wasn't until 1801, when Jefferson had begun his first term as President in the White House, that things became vicious.
However, it was an emigre Scottish journalist, James Callender, a man described as a 'rabid racist' who, a year later, did the real damage, identifying Jefferson in the Richmond Recorder and reporting that 'the man, whom it delighteth the people to honour, keeps and for many years has kept, as his concubine, one of his slaves. Her name is Sally'.

Newspaper and magazine references to 'Dusky Sally' and 'Black Sal' continued throughout Jefferson's presidency. Poems were even written about the relationship and the gossip flowed.  But Jefferson .. said nothing and went on saying nothing.
Prudent enough never to move his mistress into the White House  -  although she may have stayed there on short visits  -  his tactics worked.  Some didn't believe the story, others didn't care and a few, among what was still a largely all-male electorate, probably secretly admired him for it.

Jefferson served two terms as President (during which America struggled to keep out of the wars with Napoleon), before retiring to Monticello in 1809.  His relationship with Sally endured, albeit constrained by the return of his one surviving legitimate daughter, the constant flow of visitors to the estate and his evermounting-financial problems.
Before he died, aged 83, Jefferson did grant five members of the Hemings family their freedom, including the two surviving sons he had with Sarah. He duly kept the promise he made to her 33 years earlier to persuade her to return from Paris.

He did not, however, free her  -  although she never worked as a slave again and was excluded from the executor sale of Monticello that included '130 valuable negroes'.

Sarah certainly helped care for her master and lover in his final days, but she was not at his bedside when he died on the morning of July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a document which famously contains the words: 'All men are born free and equal.' 

The Hemingses Of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed (Daily Mail Online)
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« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2008, 01:31:36 am »

Well, as we know, Westerners say very insulting things about happy and legal marriages of young girls in Islamic history.  So, what do they now have to say about one of their own presidents?  I've never heard them commenting on this.

This is a very interesting piece, sister.  Thanks for the posting.

The young black girl who's played the role of Sarah Hemmings in the movie looks very attractive.
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