Answer: One-quarter black.
Sally was the daughter of a white slave owner John Wayles and a slave,
Elizabeth Hemings. And, Elizabeth was the daughter of English sea captain John
Hemings, and an African slave.
From the memoirs of Sally's son, Madison Hemings:
"I never knew of but one white man who bore the name Hemings; he was an
Englishman and was my great-grandfather. He was captain of an English trading
vessel which sailed between England and Williamsburg, Va., then quite a port.
My grandmother was a full-blooded African, and possibly a native of that
country. She was the property of John Wales, a Welchman. Capt Hemings
happened to be in the port of Williamsburg at the time my grandmother was born,
and he acknowledging her fatherhood he tried to purchase her of Mr. Wales, who
would not part with the child, though he was offered an extraordinarily large
price for her. She was named Elizabeth Hemings. Being thwarted in the
purchase and determining to own his flesh and blood he resolved to take the
child by force or stealth, but the knowledge of his intentions coming to John
Wales' ears, through leaky fellow servants of the mother, she and the child
were taken into the "great house," under the master's immediate care. I have
been informed that it was not the extra value of that child over other slave
children that induced Mr. Wales to refuse to sell it, for slave masters then,
as in later days, have no compunctions of conscience which restrain them from
parting mother and child of tender age, but he restrained by the fact that just
about that time amalgamation began, and the child was so great a curiosity that
its owner desired to raise it himself that he might see its outcome. Capt.
Hemings soon afterwards sailed from Williamsburg never to return. Such is the
story that comes down to me." [Madison Hemings, memoir published as "Life
Among the Lowely, No. 1," Pike Country (Ohio) Republican, March 13,
1873. Reprinted in Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American
Controversy, pg 245]
View the documentary sections dealing with Sally Hemings's story.
6. How many of Madison Hemings's siblings passed as 'white?'
view the report ·
is it true? ·
the jefferson enigma ·
the slaves' story ·
mixed race america
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