Americans adore the biggest national holiday Independence Day or, popularly, the Fourth of July. It is a holiday celebrating the adoption of the American Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, which declared independence from Great Britain.
The primary author of the Declaration of Independence, the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, had six children with the enslaved person Sally Hemings.
Scandalous love story
The main author of the Declaration of Independence, the third American president Thomas Jefferson, had a mistress for years after remaining a widower. The woman was the enslaved - biracial Sally Hemings.
Many have argued for years that this never happened. But, on the other side is the fact that Sally Hemings gave birth to six children who were irresistibly reminiscent of Thomas. And things are getting even more suspicious because Jefferson freed them from slavery when they grew up.
Before his long affair, Thomas was married to Martha Jefferson, the attractive and elegant daughter of a wealthy landowner with whom he had a happy marriage.
They both loved music. Jefferson played the violin, and Martha accompanied him on the piano. It was said that Martha was attracted to him primarily because of their shared love of music.
Thomas Jefferson became a widower at 39
Martha gave birth to six children during their ten-year marriage, but only two daughters survived to adulthood.
A few months after the birth of their last child, Martha died. She was only 33 years old. Jefferson was present at the time of her death by the bed.
Over the next three weeks, he locked himself in a room where he walked back and forth until he was physically exhausted. He later went for long walks on deserted roads to mourn his wife.
As he had promised her before his death, he never remarried. He was only 39 at the time of his wife's death. But that doesn't mean that he never wanted another woman or didn't have an affair...
For more than two centuries, the claim that Thomas Jefferson was the father of the children of his slave Sally Hemings has been the subject of much debate and disagreement. Journalist James T. Callender in 1802, after Jefferson denied him a request to be postmaster, published accusations against the President.
He wrote that Hemings was Jefferson's concubine and was the birth father of several of her children. The story was repeated in the Federalist Gazette during the election campaigns of 1802 and 1804, and most historians believe that Jefferson denied the above gossip.
Who was Sally Hemings?
Born about 1773 in Virginia, Sally Hemings was the youngest of six children born to Elizabeth (Betty) Hemings, a slave of African and European descent. Sally Hemings' father was reportedly her mother's owner, John Wayles. He was a white lawyer and slave trader of English descent who emigrated to Virginia.
After Wayles' death, Sally Hemings moved to Monticello, Jefferson's home in Virginia, with her mother and siblings. She arrived in Monticello when she was about three years old. As a child and a young teenager, Sally Hemings performed the duties of a domestic servant. After Martha died in 1782, she became the companion of one of Jefferson's younger daughters, Mary.
In the summer of 1787, Jefferson invited Mary to Paris. 14-year-old Sally Hemings came with her. She spent the next two years living with Jefferson in Paris and her brother James, Jefferson's personal servant. There is strong evidence to suggest that Jefferson and Sally Hemings began somewhat of a "relationship" during this time.
The historians mainly support the opinion that love wasn't mutual. Sally Hemings wasn't Jefferson's mistress; she was his property. He raped her - and she didn't have a word in it.
A beautiful enslaved girl
Sally Hemings was the half-sister of Jefferson's wife. Namely, the slave biracial Betty Hemings, Sally's mother, was in a relationship with widow planter John Wayles for many years. Wayles was the father of Martha Jefferson, and Sally was their youngest child.
Apparently, Sally was very beautiful, with long straight hair falling on her back and quite fair skin.
When Jefferson returned to America, he wanted Sally Hemings to come with him. He promised her that she would have a nice life at Monticello and that their children would be freed when they were 21.
In the mid-20th century, historians claimed that Jefferson was actually on his estate in Monticello in the 13-year period in which he was often absent. And, precisely nine months after each visit, Sally Hemings gave birth to a child.
In 1998, several investigators conducted a study to establish a male DNA line. They analyzed the Y-DNA of the living heirs of Jefferson's Uncle Field and the heir of Sally's son, Eston Hemings.
The results showed that the Y-DNA matched the male Jefferson family line, and it was all published in the journal Nature. Two years later, a team of historians came together with a final report presenting DNA and historical evidence. They concluded that there is a high probability that Jefferson is the birth father of Estonia and probably the other children of Sally Hemings.
Ever since DNA tests were made public, most biographers and historians have concluded that Jefferson was sleeping with his slave Sally and that lasted for four decades.
Other historians, including a group of professors linked to the succession of Thomas Jefferson, say the evidence is insufficient to conclude that the author of the Declaration of Independence is the father of the children.
Politician and educator
Thomas Jefferson spoke five foreign languages and was interested in science, invention, architecture, religion, and philosophy. After completing his second term as President of the United States, he founded the University of Virginia.
He was a lawyer by profession and graduated from college within two years. He also designed his own large palace on a 5,000-acre estate in Charlottesville, Virginia, which he named Monticello. Thus, the University of Virginia and Monticello were inscribed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in America in 1987.
He adored books and had thousands of them in his library in Monticello. After the British burned down the Library of Congress in 1814, Jefferson offered his collection of over six thousand books for four dollars per book.
Later, realizing he no longer owned most of the books in the collection, he wrote a letter to another U.S. president. That President was John Adams, to whom he noted, "I can't live without books."
Jefferson immediately began buying new books and continued reading, always eager for knowledge.
Sally Hemings in pop culture
In 1995, the historical drama film, Jefferson in Paris, told the story of Jefferson during his time as United States Ambassador to France and his ties to Sally Hemings. Nick Nolte played Jefferson, and Thandie Newton played Sally Hemings.
Television miniseries Sally Hemings: The American Scandal premiered in 2000, starring Sam Neill as Thomas Jefferson and Carmen Ejogo as his mistress on the small screen.