The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family

The Hemingses of Monticello: An American FamilyThis 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 S To The Family S Dispersal After Jefferson S Death In In The Mid S The English Captain Of A Trading Ship That Made Runs Between England And The Virginia Colony Fathered A Child By An Enslaved Woman Living Near Williamsburg The Woman, Whose Name Is Unknown And Who Is Believed To Have Been Born In Africa, Was Owned By The Eppeses, A Prominent Virginia Family The Captain, Whose Surname Was Hemings, And The Woman Had A Daughter They Named Her ElizabethSo Begins The Hemingses Of Monticello, Annette Gordon Reed S Riveting History Of The Hemings Family, Whose Story Comes To Vivid Life In This Brilliantly Researched And Deeply Moving Work Gordon Reed, Author Of The Highly Acclaimed Historiography Thomas Jefferson And Sally Hemings An American Controversy, Unearths Startling New Information About The Hemingses, Jefferson, And His White Family Although The Book Presents The Most Detailed And Richly Drawn Portrait Ever Written Of Sarah Hemings, Better Known By Her Nickname Sally, Who Bore Seven Children By Jefferson Over The Course Of Their Thirty Eight Year Liaison, The Hemingses Of Monticello Tells Than The Story Of Her Life With Jefferson And Their Children The Hemingses As A Whole Take Their Rightful Place In The Narrative Of The Family S Extraordinary Engagement With One Of History S Most Important FiguresNot Only Do We Meet Elizabeth Hemings The Family Matriarch And Mother To Twelve Children, Six By John Wayles, A Poor English Immigrant Who Rose To Great Wealth In The Virginia Colony But We Follow The Hemings Family As They Become The Property Of Jefferson Through His Marriage To Martha Wayles The Hemings Wayles Children, Siblings To Martha, Played Pivotal Roles In The Life At Jefferson S EstateWe Follow The Hemingses To Paris, Where James Hemings Trained As A Chef In One Of The Most Prestigious Kitchens In France And Where Sally Arrived As A Fourteen Year Old Chaperone For Jefferson S Daughter Polly To Philadelphia, Where James Hemings Acted As The Major Domo To The Newly Appointed Secretary Of State To Charlottesville, Where Mary Hemings Lived With Her Partner, A Prosperous White Merchant Who Left Her And Their Children A Home And Property To Richmond, Where Robert Hemings Engineered A Plan For His Freedom And Finally To Monticello, That Iconic Home On The Mountain, From Where Most Of Jefferson S Slaves, Many Of Them Hemings Family Members, Were Sold At Auction Six Months After His Death In As The Hemingses Of Monticello Makes Vividly Clear, Monticello Can No Longer Be Known Only As The Home Of A Remarkable American Leader, The Author Of The Declaration Of Independence Nor Can The Story Of The Hemingses, Whose Close Blood Ties To Our Third President Have Been Expunged From History Until Very Recently, Be Left Out Of The Telling Of America S Story With Its Empathetic And Insightful Consideration Of Human Beings Acting In Almost Unimaginably Difficult And Complicated Family Circumstances, The Hemingses Of Monticello Is History As Great Literature It Is A Remarkable Achievement

Annette Gordon Reed is a professor of law at New York Law School and a professor of history at Rutgers University She is the author of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings An American Controversy She lives in New York City.

❰EPUB❯ ✼ The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family Author Annette Gordon-Reed –
  • Hardcover
  • 798 pages
  • The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family
  • Annette Gordon-Reed
  • English
  • 12 January 2019
  • 9780393064773

10 thoughts on “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family

  1. says:

    This is an extremely well written and thought provoking boook Gordon Reed addresses the history of the Hemings family, the slaves whose live were so completely intertwined with the life of Thomas Jefferson She focuses on them and their individual lives, not just as extensions of Jefferson, although he was of course, central to their existence I am surprised at some of the comments I have read about this book I did not find Gordon Reed to be particularly angry, although, God knows, people of African American heritage have every right to be angry about so much of this country s history It is also true that she had to extrapolate some of her conclusions, but the fact that white Americans essentially made their slaves historically invisible, and white historians did not focus any of their attention on slaves, or people of color in general, so what primary sources there are are few and far between While I knew about Sally Hemings and her relationship with Jefferson there was so much I did not know that illuminates both sides of the relationship, freeing it from the cliche d image of master and slave It was that, but it was much as well Hemings was Jefferson s half sister in law, sharing a father with Jefferson s widow Martha Her brothers, James and Robert, were close to Jefferson throughout their lives as well, and the entire family were treated in Monticello as a special kind of family , never treated as the other slaves on the little mountain were treated, but it was never ever forgotten that they were, indeed, Jefferson s chattel property I found it fascinating to learn that during the time that Sally and James were with Jefferson in Paris for five years, they lived in a city where slavery was essentially illegal Had they wanted to sue for their freedom, Gordon Reed argues that they almost certainly could have won it This implies a certain willingness in their return to Virginia and legal slave status The discussion of the representations made by Jefferson to Hemings is remarkable The result was that Hemings spent thirty eight years in a relationship with Jefferson and ultimately, won the freedom for her children that she had demanded from him By dealing with the Hemings family, and their multigenerational relationship with Jefferson and his family, Gordon Reed does much to illuminate not only their forgotten lives, but the forgotten at least by white historians and culture lives of so many other families in their same situation It is a painful book to read in many ways, but a rewarding one as well.

  2. says:

    I will not finish this book For a non fiction work there is too much conjecture and speculation about the character s feelings without sources to back it up I also felt manipulated while reading I do not need to be reminded over and over again about how morally wrong, cruel and degrading slavery was I possessed this opinion long before I picked up this book There seemed to be an angry tone throughout.Perhaps there are some redeeming qualities to this book it did win the National Book Award I am just not willing to commit to reading another 500 pages to find out.

  3. says:

    My opinion on this book isn t a popular one For that reason and because the subject matter is so sensitive, I debated whether to write a review as my thoughts are a bit complex I ve done my best to explain why I feel the way I do The author does a really good job of showing how it s possible for people to have complex feelings about their circumstances in life While I can t begin to compare my hardships to those slaves have faced, it does showcase a universal themes of people doing their best to overcome whatever hardships they may face I will also say that it s nice seeing how families evolve as time goes on It s one reason why I enjoy reading historical books All this being said I can t say this was an easy or as engaging book as I had hoped it would be due to problems I had while reading The author really harped the whole idea of how incredibly unfair and unsafe slaves lives were to where I felt I was getting lectured and scolded by an extremely bossy person I do not need to be reminded repeatedly about how wrong, disgraceful, and just plain ugly slavery was I, and many people around the world, possessed this opinion long before any of us picked up this book If you need further proof of this then you can read many negative and positive reviews saying how they agree slavery is wrong and how everyone wishes it never existed This author seemed to think that everyone who read this book might be of the idea that slavery was good and that slaves didn t have a tough life Really felt the preaching was unnecessary, yet anger would certainly is justifiable as a black author discussing slavery Those who feel slavery was okay would than likely not pick up a book about a famous slave family Slavery was never and will never be okay and some people do need to be told this fact, but I doubt those who need to be told this would bother to read or listen to this book It makes me sad that this practice continues in many different ways to this day With this being said, everyone has different experiences while reading While I may have heard an angry tone, others may feel there isn t one All I can report on is my experience.One thing I kind of liked, but not a whole lot for a research non fiction work, is that there was too much conjecture and speculation about all these character s feelings and at times actions without sources to back it up Usually researchers look to personal writings, interviews, etc for verification but this author didn t do any of that I m all for creative license and speculation on feeling of people who have long past, especially when the people involved than likely didn t know how to write or read since it was illegal for slaves to know how to do either of those things at times, but I think it belongs a bit in historical fiction not a research book Maybe I m nitpicking but it just felt out of place without some idea to referencing people who we know existed The Hemingses were a well known family based on who their owner master was, so I find it a little hard to believe there wouldn t be some kind of information on them No matter how much time has passed, everyone looks at what the President of the United States is doing This book is presented as a factual historical book but there just didn t seem to be a lot of facts in here so it feels like it leans on the fiction instead of nonfiction side.After a while I thought it would behoove me to get a copy of the audiobook once I began to really struggle to finish this book The audiobook didn t help the situation at all The narrator s voice and just the way she read this story started grating on my nerves after a while It was oddly easy to tune her out so I feel she could have added a little life into her reading A friend of mine who speaks friends heard a little of this narrator pronounce some French words and she said they were being mispronounced I feel that someone should have better prepared the narrator to pronounce French words, or at least hired someone who knew had at least a high school education level of understanding another language.At this moment, I couldn t suggest either version of this book If this book hadn t been needed for me to do some research then I wouldn t have finished this book I got what I needed names and locations so that s all that matters I suppose There are plenty of books to read about the Jefferson and Hemings family so I d recommend to another reader to choose one of them All this being said, if you truly feel this book is interesting to you then give it a few chapters of a listen or read to see if you might find enjoyment and hopefully enlightenment on the Hemingses, Monticello, and slavery.

  4. says:

    I just cannot finish this book.I found parts of this book to be excellent When the author presented a narrative about what the people did based on primary sources and some secondary sources , I was hooked It was well written and incredibly interesting I would easily have given those parts 4 stars.The problem is, those parts are less than half of what I managed to read A good part of the book is just speculation She even tells the reader when she is departing from the narrative at one point she mentioned that the next four chapters would be a departure that was a warning sign to me The author literally asks a bunch of unanswerable questions such as what must Sally Hemings have felt doing x, y and z, what must have been going through James Hemings mind while he did a, b and c , and then proceeds to hypothetically answer them I think her ideas would make for a pretty good novel which I would read , but I just don t want to read that type of stuff in non fiction writing at least to the degree that it is done here I am well aware that the author probably did not have many sources to work with due to the subject matter, so she may have to fill in some holes However, the narrative fact based sections that the author did write probably could have stood on their own without all this excess filler The book may have been half the length, but I think it would have been much better to cut out the majority of the speculation and use it only when absolutely necessary.In addition, the author constantly brought up the fact that Sally Hemings and her family were human chattel , but that they were human beings as worth while as any other human being Clearly this is true, and mentioning it once or twice wouldn t be a problem, but it came up time and time again If someone is reading this book, I m sure they are aware of what Sally Hemings status was and realize that it was wrong to enslave people I just don t need to be beaten over the head with it I finally gave up on the book when the author went off on a lengthy tangent about the perils of teenage girls living virtually alone with heterosexual males it seemed to go on forever I managed to finish that chapter, but I decided to just stop reading the book at that point.

  5. says:

    This was difficult to get into at first At first, I felt like I was hacking my way through a thicket of speculation and scholarly argument But Gordon Reed faced a daunting challenge how to tell the story of a family that has in many cases been intentionally erased from the record We never hear from Sally directly Much of what we know about her comes from the oral history of her descendants And though Jefferson produced reams of documents during his lifetime, they were artfully crafted and edited to keep his secrets To me, the best of history and biography convinces me to look at the past in a new way, to shake loose long standing assumptions and biases Gordon Reed does not romanticize the institution of slavery, but she requires us to view the members of this family as agents of the changes in their own lives I cannot shake the image of a sixteen year old, pregnant Sally Hemings in Paris, negotiating with the future president of the United States to assure a better future for her children.

  6. says:

    Truly amazing book Gordon Reed offered than expected She is extremely thorough, careful, and fair You can tell she is very passionate about this topic I was surprised by many of her arguments, but was convinced by most of them Learning about the lives of the slaves and how they dealt with their situation was incredible Too often the oppressed American slaves are portrayed lacking individuality and even humanity Yes they were oppressed, but little is explained how they creatively dealt with their terrible situation Gordon Reed presents an oppressed people, but returns their humanity, creativity, and individuality I also admired her ability to use historical context to come to conclusions and paint a better picture of life on Monticello Some have criticized the book, saying she used too much conjecture or offers too many conclusions that lack source material However, she is actually supporting her observations with well informed and broad historical context This is probably the best aspect of the book Her empathy for Jefferson was also surprising I walked away with a better impression positive of Jefferson than many of his modern day biographers allow She offers a better picture of his personality and home life than I ve read before Though very long, I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in early American slavery or Jefferson.

  7. says:

    I admit, I chose this book to read because I was looking for details of the affair between Thomas Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemings For someone who is interested in learning about Thomas Jefferson, there are a lot of award winning biographies to peruse Interestingly, all of these books turn out to be written by white males who treat Sally Hemings as a footnote in Jefferson s life and discount the idea that she could have had a relationship with Jefferson or conceived his children The one historian willing to assert that this relationship likely did exist, Annette Gordon Reed, made her claims in the 1997 book, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings An American Controversy, and a year later DNA results seemed to corroborate her claim In her new book, The Hemingses of Monticello An American Family, Gordon Reed attacks Jefferson s biographers who had the power to write the official record of Jefferson s family life, and essentially wrote the Hemings out of it In Gordon Reed s book, the Hemingses are not side characters, but in fact they are the story While I initially started this book hoping to learn about the affair between Jefferson and Hemings, a much interesting story emerged not just about Sally, but about her entire family and the fate they suffered as slaves in America.At its heart, this book is about the Hemings family how they are introduced to America, how they come to be the property of their own relative, and how they are unceremoniously auctioned off following Jefferson s death And at the core of the book is the key question in Sally Hemings life why she gave up her freedom in order to be with Thomas Jefferson Following the death of her half sister, Jefferson s wife Martha, the twelve year old Sally Hemings followed Thomas Jefferson to Paris to help care for his daughters In Paris, with its Freedom Principle, Sally Hemings was no longer a slave, and she and her brother, James, who was Jefferson s chef, could have, at any time, appealed to the government and won their freedom from Jefferson However, neither Hemings sibling applied for freedom, and, in fact, when it was time for Jefferson to return to Virginia, both Hemingses willingly gave up their freedom to return with him as his slaves Sally Hemings, at this time, was thought to be pregnant, and she initially refused to go back to Virginia but ultimately agreed when Jefferson promised that her children their children together would be freed from slavery when they turned twenty one But why would she trust Jefferson and his promise of a faraway freedom and return to Virginia where she would be forced to live under slavery That is the key question of The Hemingses of Monticello, and ultimately it is never answered Sally Hemings left no record of her thoughts, and so there is no way to determine what she was thinking In fact, according to Gordon Reed, the veiled nature of Sally Hemings existence is the most important theme in her life While there is, unfortunately, no historical record to answer some of the key questions about the Hemingses, the most important thing is that Gordon Reed, unlike the preponderance of Jefferson s biographers, actually asks these questions in the first place The Hemingses are not invisible to her in fact, her book is told from their point of view, not Jefferson s And while Gordon Reed cannot answer some of these key questions, she provides invaluable insights, not through speculation, as other reviewers have suggested, but rather by providing context For example, in trying to explain how the relationship between Jefferson and Hemings may have started, Gordon Reed uses the historical record we do have of Jefferson s relationship with his manservant slave, Burwell Colbert, and how Jefferson went to great lengths to win his affection, to explain how Jefferson might also have used similar tactics with Sally Hemings By explaining the world of Monticello, and the institution of slavery which pervaded it, even without specific information on Sally Hemings, Gordon Reed is able to tell her story.While Gordon Reed may not be able to tell us specifically what Sally Heming s private life was like what her thoughts or goals may have been she is able to tell us what the life of a slave was like in the 18th and 19th centuries what it was like to be entirely dependent on the whims of an owner, to be separated from family, to be treated as a piece of property recorded in a Farm Book, to be a half sibling with the very person who owns you, to fight for your freedom, and to be treated as an invisible or side character in the lives of white people The reviewers who say this book spends too much time talking about slavery don t seem to understand that the institution of slavery is, in fact, what the heart of this book is about The beauty of this book is that it transforms James Hemings from a personal servant to Jefferson to a professional chef and world traveler and Sally Hemings from a passive concubine to someone able to negotiate her children s freedom They were not nameless slaves, footnotes to the larger story of Thomas Jefferson, but in fact they were important historical figures in their own right In the end, readers looking for details on the love story between Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson will be disappointed, but those with an open mind will appreciate the far compelling story being told of an American family living through the ordeal of slavery.

  8. says:

    I just read another review which said that she couldn t continue with this book because the author belabored the point that slavery is evil, and that her tone can came across as being angry I couldn t agree I just started this book I was listening to it in the audio form and finally had to quit I am absolutely, un equivocally, 100% against slavery I totally agree with the fact that slavery is evil and that its abolishment was one of the great struggles in our nation s past that needed to happen.However, once I agree with that sentiment and espouse it wholeheartedly, I don t need to be beat over the head with it again and again No, Jefferson was not a perfect man, and anyone who immortalizes him as such is flat out wrong But many, many people had slaves during his time, and the fact that he did have slaves does not immediately put him into the shit pile either There is a middle ground between saint and ass, I promise.There was a lot of PC in here too, which made me roll my eyes Many times, people were not referred to as slaves but rather enslaved people Okay, I get the fact that the intentions are good this historian is trying to make the point that slaves were people, and that being a slave wasn t who they were, it was just a set of circumstances that was forced upon them But I think anyone who is predisposed to read this book would know that to begin with Referring to a slave as a slave is no demeaning than to refer to me as a librarian No, my job title doesn t encompass 100% of who I am, but it certainly encompasses a large part of it Working at a library shapes my view of the world any long term life status will do that, whether you re a banker, a lawyer, or yes, a slave.So call a librarian a librarian, and call a slave a slave Anything else is pure PC and doesn t deserve the place in a serious study of history.For these two reasons, I had to quit listening to the book fairly early in Perhaps it gets better I don t know I don t have the time to waste to find out.

  9. says:

    Like many people reading this book I found its length and repetitiveness utterly frustrating I ended up putting it aside for a few weeks before returning, persuaded by the glowing references on the cover to finish it There is a fascinating story here of the slave family owned by Thomas Jefferson For a newcomer to writings about slavery there were many great insights into the realities and repercussions of slavery but so much repetition Sometimes it felt like a record stuck on a long groove, going over the same point over and over again The Paris section was particularly frustrating, with about 40 pages of speculation as it why Jefferson had Sally come over with his daughter on their own So what, he did For all the speculation that was included there was some surprising speculation missing One of Sally s older brothers who was also in Paris, trained to be chef, was a good looking man who had great friendships and fallings out with other men never married, never any hint of a relationship with a woman, was wracked with personal issues when emancipated he was a talented but troubled drama queen who sadly killed himself For any reader this screams the question, was he gay It could have lead to a fresh avenue of exploration, exploring the impact of homosexuality Yet the author stubbornly avoids this Given one of the biggest issues of the book is the free white defined members of Jefferson s family refusal to mention or talk about the taboo of Sally s enduring relationship with Jefferson, to avoid speculating about someone s sexuality almost seems like repeating the mistake of deliberate omission.The book contains vast amount of detailed speculation based scant evidence available about everyone else so this seemed lacking Having said all that, the main frustration is there is so much that is fascinating and important in this book and it s lost in all the long windedness and repetition More than concrete evidence, what this book was really missing was a decent editor with a ruthless red pen.

  10. says:

    As I read this I kept grasping for things that would make me feel better about Jefferson as a slaveowner, and they were there he never whipped a slave although his overseers sometimes did he treated the large Hemings family Elizabeth Hemings and her descendents well, exempting them from the hardest work, having them trained in trades such as blacksmithing, carpentry, gardening, and cooking gave them spending money allowed several of the males to ride freely about Virginia conducting his business for him outfitted James and Sally his dead wife s half siblings with nice new clothes in Paris bought expensive French culinary lessons for James and many There were also details that made me feel better about Jefferson the man, such as when the wife of his white coachman in Philadelphia, where he was serving in the Washington administration, accused his white French butler Adrien Petit of engaging in sodomy and loving men Petit angrily denied the charges and threatened to return to France unless the couple was banished, which Jefferson did and wrote to Petit in response, je suis et serai toujours votre ami In fact, the story of the Hemingses is so relatively comforting, given all the horrors we know about slavery, that you can coast through the narrative with your emotions on neutral, until the last chapter, when the patriarch dies, massively in debt, and all the slaves he hasn t freed either during his life or in his will have to be sold So the last image we re left with is little Peter Fossett, ten years old, great grandson of Elizabeth Hemings, standing alone on the auction block in Charlottesville Fossett s family tried to ensure that he would be sold to someone they knew, so that they could buy him back at some point But Peter s new owner reneged on his agreement and the Fossetts the father having scrounged up enough money to buy most of his family eventually left for Ohio without him, since freed slaves were only legally allowed to remain in Virginia for one year.Why couldn t Jefferson free all of the Hemings Why couldn t he at least free Sally Hemings during their time together Sally had had an opportunity to be free when in Paris with her brother James, living in Jefferson s lodgings Jefferson was sent there on a diplomatic mission in 1785, three years after the death of his wife, and took along his daughter Patsy her adult name was Martha and his slave James Hemings In 1787, he sent for his nine year old daughter Polly adult name Maria , who was living in Virginia with relatives Polly had almost no memory of her father, and wasn t enthusiastic about going to Paris The relatives boarded the ship with her, and the ship stayed in port for several days During the middle of the night, they quietly left, so Polly woke up the next morning far out to sea, alone except for Sally Hemings Sally was only 14, and a last minute choice to make the journey Jefferson had requested an older slave woman, but she was indisposed.Jefferson s friend Abigail Adams met Polly and Sally in London and outfitted them with new clothes, and they made their way to Paris We don t know much about Sally It is unknown if she could read or write, although by the time she left Paris in 1789, she could speak French and James had hired an expensive tutor to teach him Most people who came in contact with her found her very attractive, or beautiful She had long, straight hair, according to the Monticello slave Isaac Jefferson Her parents were the biracial slave Elizabeth Hemings daughter of a white captain Hemings and John Wayles, white father of Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson So she was one quarter black, and she was the half sister of Thomas Jefferson s wife Sharing a good chunk of Martha Jefferson s DNA, it s possible she resembled the wife Jefferson had loved deeply Jefferson s two daughters attended a convent school during the week and came home on weekends, and Sally served as a lady s maid to Patsy When Patsy began to socialize in high Paris society, Sally accompanied her to balls After Patsy returned to the States, one of her good French friends wrote to her, asking her to say hello to Mlle Mademoiselle Sale Sally for her, indicating that Hemings may have been considered, at that point in their lives, of a companion and friend to Patsy than a servant At some point in 1789, as the French Revolution swirled about them, 16 year old Sally became pregnant by 46 year old Thomas Jefferson.Jefferson in 1786, by Mather BrownJefferson s four year term in Paris was up and he was preparing to sail back to America France was free soil slavery was not permitted Not counting the French colonies The law was particularly strongly enforced in Paris If a slave sued for his her freedom in the Paris courts, he she always won The Hemings siblings would have known about this law, since there was a substantial free black population in Paris, and they spoke at least decent French We can only speculate about why neither of them petitioned to be free In an interview with a newspaper in 1873, Madison Hemings Sally s son by TJ explains the treaty his mother and Jefferson entered into during that time my mother became Mr Jefferson s concubine, and when he was called back home she was enciente by him He desired to bring my mother back to Virginia with him but she demurred She was just beginning to understand the French language well, and in France she was free, while if she returned to Virginia she would be re enslaved So she refused to return with him To induce her to do so he promised her extraordinary privileges, and made a solemn pledge that her children should be freed at the age of twenty one years In consequence of his promise, on which she implicitly relied, she returned with him to Virginia Sally was ensconced at Monticello her first child, born in 1790, did not survive James acted as Jefferson s chef Jefferson couldn t free Sally Hemings because he needed her slave status as cover to carry on their relationship Certainly there were white men who lived with free black women all over America, but none of Jefferson s status and fame Already by the early 1800s there were gossipy articles in the press about dusky Sally being Jefferson s concubine and mother of multiple of his children She couldn t continue to live under his roof as a free woman, and she certainly wouldn t have wanted to be freed and leave her very young children behind Besides, where could she go and what could she do, as a single woman whose only training was in needlework, housekeeping, and caring for a man Freeing her and continuing to live with her would have meant giving up his entire public persona and his legacy, and Jefferson was fanatical about creating and protecting his legacy So were his white descendants his granddaughter Ellen Coolidge who also claimed that Samuel Carr had fathered all of Sally s children wrote in a letter to her husband, No female domestic ever entered Jefferson s chambers except at hours when he was known not to be there and none could have entered without being exposed to the public gaze I m focusing mostly on the book s narrative, but Gordon Reed focuses extensively on historiography, and these parts are not less interesting than the tale of what happened to these families The book engages in a lot of speculation, but it s meticulously reasoned speculation There is much reading between the lines, which is necessary if you want to attempt to know anything about Hemings and Jefferson s relationship In the same interview Madison explained how he got his name As to myself, I was named Madison by the wife of James Madison, who was afterwards President of the United States Mrs Madison happened to be at Monticello at the time of my birth, and begged the privilege of naming me, promising my mother a fine present for the honor She consented, and Mrs Madison dubbed me by the name I now acknowledge, but like many promises of white folks to the slaves she never gave my mother anything And on Jefferson He was uniformly kind to all about him He was not in the habit of showing partiality or fatherly affection to us children We were the only children of his by a slave woman He was affectionate toward his white grandchildren, of whom he had fourteen My brothers, sister Harriet and myself, were used alike We were permitted to stay about the great house, and only required to do such light work as going on errands Harriet learned to spin and to weave in a little factory on the home plantation We were free from the dread of having to be slaves all our lives long, and were measurably happy We were always permitted to be with our mother, who was well used It was her duty, all her life which I can remember, up to the time of father s death, to take care of his chamber and wardrobe, look after us children and do such light work as sewing

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