Monticello was the home of Thomas Jefferson in Virginia. It is now a museum, which tells the story of Jefferson and the enslaved Sally Hemings. This short video and the text that follows it recount the life of Sally Hemings, who gave birth to six children fathered by Jefferson (two died at a young age). The video is based on the words of Madison Hemings, son of Sally and Thomas Jefferson.

The text posted here discusses the historical record of Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings. It reviews the evidence and lists the books that have been written by historians about Jefferson and Hemings. It is a fascinating read, pointing out, for example, that Sally Hemings was the half-sister of Jefferson’s wife Martha. Hemings was light-skinned, and some of her children and grandchildren “passed” as white.

We are all in debt to the current debate about critical race theory for kindling and rekindling attention to historical studies and their relevance to today. The states that are passing bans on honest discussions of the past will find that their efforts at censorship backfire. They are drawing more attention to the wrongs of the past. The attacks on The 1619 Project and CRT have awakened remarkable interest in the details of past injustices and to systemic racism. The truth will out.