The Hemingses of Monticello, by Annette Gordon-Reed
I had heard of this book through Elena at Tea at Trianon and wanted to order it, when I happened upon a piece by the author in The Root, titled Sally Hemings and me. Professor Gordon-Reed, who teaches law at New York Law School and history at
Rutgers University, writes:
was particularly fascinating to recreate the lives of young James and Sally
Hemings in pre-Revolutionary Paris, a place where they could have claimed their
freedom. The pair received wages that were above the norm for servants in the
country and moved about in a city where no one had reason to think of them as
anything other than free persons of color. What did the experience mean to
Indeed I have often wondered about Sally’s relationship to Jefferson: how did it feel for a young woman to be the property of a man who was her brother-in-law and lover? Why did she choose to leave Paris to return to Monticello and slavery? To impose the same fate on her children to be? These are the questions the failed and visually beautiful Jefferson in Paris thought briefly of addressing before it changed its mind and switched to a half-dozen other themes (yes, I will review that film shortly.)
For an excerpt of Professor Gordon-Reed’s book, see Sally Hemings in Paris. I live close to the Champs-Elysees, and often walk by the emplacement of the Langeac mansion, former residence of Jefferson and the Hemings.
Hemingses, writes the author, deserve to live in the pages of history as living, breathing people,
not simply as problems or symbols. I hope you agree.
I do, and look forward to reading the book.