This epic work tells the story of the Hemingses, whose close blood ties to our third president had been systematically expunged from American history until very recently. Now, historian and legal scholar Annette Gordon-Reed traces the Hemings family from its origins in Virginia in the 1700s to the family's dispersal after Jefferson's death in 1826. It brings to life not only Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson but also their children and Hemings's siblings, who shared a father with Jefferson's wife, Martha. The Hemingses of Monticello sets the family's compelling saga against the backdrop of Revolutionary America, Paris on the eve of its own revolution, 1790s Philadelphia, and plantation life at Monticello. Much anticipated, this book promises to be the most important history of an American slave family ever written.
Chapter 1: Young Elizabeth's World
Elizabeth Hemings began life when America was still a colonial possession.
She lived through the Revolution in the home of one of the men who helped make
it and died during the formative years of the American Republic, an unknown
person in the midst of pivotal events in national and world history. Hemings
lived at a time when chattel slavery existed in every American colony, but was
dramatically expanding and thriving in the Virginia that was her home. She was,
by law, an item of propertya nonwhite, female slave, whose life was bounded by
eighteenth-century attitudes about how such persons fit into society. Those
attitudes, years in the making by the time Hemings was born, fascinate because
they are at once utterly familiar and totally alien.
Most Americans today admit the existence of racism and sexism, even as we often disagree about examples of them. When we encounter these practices while studying the eighteenth ...
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