Talk:Sally Hemings

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Sexual relationship?????[edit]

a) She was 14 year old b) She was slave with no choice

Instead "have begun a sexual relationship" "he rape her" will be more appropriate. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:04, 29 August 2012 (UTC)

  • News to you: In the 18th century, 14 was well into the "marriageable age" by both law and social custom. Quoth Wiki: "Towards the end of the 18th century, other European countries also began to enact age of consent laws. The first French Constitution established an age of consent of 11 years in 1791, which was raised to 13 in 1863. Portugal, Spain, Denmark and the Swiss cantons, initially set the age of consent at 10–12 years and then raised it to between 13 and 16 years in the second half of the 19th century.[3] Historically, the English common law set the age of consent to range from 10 to 12.[4] In the United States, by the 1880s, most states set the age of consent at 10–12, and in one state, Delaware, the age of consent was only 7. A New York Times article states that it was still aged 7 in Delaware in 1895. So, Sally Hemings would have been considered a legally sexually active agent at age 14 and hardly considered unusual for the time, and therefore, could not have been "raped", so long as she gave consent. There is nothing to suggest that she withheld consent. Bricology (talk) 04:47, 1 December 2012 (UTC)

Oh, well, that's obviously fine, then. Sex with 14-year-olds that you own as slaves is obviously perfectly fine. (John 11:35 -- 'Jesus wept.') Khamba Tendal (talk) 19:02, 27 August 2015 (UTC)

Right--age is a factor, but it's not the only factor here. Even if she were 18, 25, 60--she was still his slave, and as such was unable to consent. Can't fathom the amount of rape apologism in this discussion. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:29, 6 July 2017 (UTC)

Without testimony from Sally Hemmings, we don't know whether she consented or not. All we know is she was a slave, and that they came to be in love, and so the relationship was very complicated. Walterego (talk) 03:49, 10 July 2017 (UTC)
Whoa there, I don't know where you're getting this 'in love' conclusion. Stick to what is known. DMorpheus2 (talk) 13:56, 10 July 2017 (UTC)
Read Annette Gordon-Reed's Pulitzer-prize-winning book on this very subject, then come back and discuss the word. She 'wrote the book' on this subject and teaches the history of law at Harvard. Might be considered a reliable source. Regards, DMorpheus2 (talk) 14:25, 6 July 2017 (UTC)

February birth?[edit]

The article says Sally was born in February 1773, but it has no source to back up the month claim. In Jefferson's Field Book reproduced on the site only lists the year 1773 for her birth. Is there some source for the February claim? Libertybison (talk) 23:10, 4 July 2017 (UTC)


The first paragraph of the "Jefferson-Hemings controversy" section says, "Jefferson forcing a nonconsensual sexual relationship on Hemings was first reported in 1802 by one of Jefferson’s enemies, a political journalist named James T. Callender, after he noticed several light skinned slaves at Monticello.[42]"

The second paragraph of that section says, "Since 1998 and the DNA study,[45] many historians have concluded that the widower Jefferson had forced a long nonconsensual sexual relationship onto Hemings, and fathered six children with her, four of whom survived to adulthood."

I can't see all of the references since not all are online. Do some of them specify "nonconsensual"? Or is that an addition by us, a kind of Original Research based on the fact that as a slave she had no choice whether to consent or not, and therefore people feel justified pointing out in Wikipedia's voice that it was nonconsensual kind of by definition? As for "forced" - isn't that a bit much? Do "many historians" actually say that? I see there was discussion above about whether to say "rape", which the article does not say - but isn't "forced" just as bad, implying physical force on his part and resistance on hers? I would really like to know what references or sources justify the use (twice) of the word "forced". --MelanieN (talk) 21:16, 3 August 2017 (UTC)

-- No, in fact most historians say the opposite, that the relationship should not be described as "rape" or "nonconsensual". Our sources, like Annette Gordon-Reed, are very clear on these points. This is vandalism, and it should be removed. (talk) 03:10, 4 August 2017 (UTC)

I'll removed "forced". I'd like to hear more discussion about "nonconsensual." --MelanieN (talk) 21:56, 6 August 2017 (UTC)
While I was at it I also removed "nonconsensual" from those two sentences. I think it may still be in the article in a few places and would like discussion about whether it belongs here. --MelanieN (talk) 22:00, 6 August 2017 (UTC)
Gordon-Reed makes her perspective that slaves could consent fairly clear in Ch. 5:
″It makes perfect sense when faced with the devastating effects of such patently vicious, yet extremely influential, thinking— no protection for black female rape victims— to adopt a position to rebut such nonsense. There are, however, some problematic conclusions that flow from countering the Cobbses of the world with the idea that no enslaved woman would ever want to consent to sex with a white man, and if there was sex, there was rape. First, rape is determined by the race of the partners without reference to anything we know about the individuals or the circumstances involved. We will always know little or nothing about the vast majority of enslaved women and the scores of them who suffered rape. One might adopt a presumption about those anonymous women in deference to their unquestionable status as victims of slavery. What we know about the way slave women were treated generally should most inform our thoughts about their lives. We are on different terrain when there is information suggesting another possible understanding about what has gone on between one specific man and one specific woman. In those very rare cases, it would be intellectually unsound to ignore evidence, or skip over reasonable inferences, in order to return to the presumption based upon the experiences of the overall group of enslaved women.″[1] (talk) 22:29, 6 August 2017 (UTC)
I definitely agree with Gordon-Reed's assessment in regards to Hemings and Jefferson's relationship, although I don't think it would apply to Sally's rumored father, John Wayles. However, as far as I can tell there aren't really any reliable sources by scholars presenting Wayles rumored paternity in that way, so we shouldn't present it as such. Libertybison (talk) 05:18, 7 August 2017 (UTC)

"Slaves" vs. "People he enslaved"[edit]

A recent edit changed the word "slave" in multiple places to "(woman) (people) (etc.) he enslaved" - the "he referring to Jefferson. I understand the distinction that is trying to be made here - that this was a PERSON, not a "slave", but rather a person who had been enslaved by others. However, I object to the terminology "a woman he enslaved" as if he done it personally - as if he had taken a free person and enslaved them. Can we just say "enslaved woman", "enslaved person", etc. - as a reasonable substitute for "slave" that does not suggest that Jefferson personally made them into slaves? --MelanieN (talk) 01:56, 13 August 2017 (UTC)

I agree with your point about using the term "woman he enslaved" being inaccurate. However, I must strongly disagree with your point about the word "slave". Of course, a slave is a person. Libertybison (talk) 05:29, 13 August 2017 (UTC)
You're right of course, but this is part of the new kind of political correctness. IMHO it's an awkward construction. I think it's silly to replace every usage of the word "slave" with "enslaved person," but I won't be reverting such changes. YoPienso (talk) 07:09, 13 August 2017 (UTC)
    • ^ Gordon-Reed, Annette. The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (Kindle Locations 5588-5593). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.