jefferson's blood
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Quiz
Jump to question 6
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?'

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