Scientists find Sally Hemings’ room in Monticello

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Researchers find Sally Hemings' room in Monticello
Researchers find Sally Hemings' room in Monticello

Archaeologists working at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello mansion have discovered the slave quarters of Sally Hemings, a slave believed to have had six children fathered by Jefferson.

They have found the living quarters for Sally Hemings, the enslaved woman who bore sex children to one of the country’s founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, NBC News reported.

Hemings is believed to have given birth to six of Jefferson’s children.

The room at Monticello, which was 14 feet, 8 inches by 13 feet, was found next to Jefferson’s bedroom.

It had been converted into a men’s bathroom in 1941.

Historians had used a description from one of Jefferson’s grandsons which said Hemings’ room was in the south wing of Monticello. They started digging and found the original brick, hearth, fireplace and floors that date back to the early 1800s.

Few details of Hemings have ever come to light. While there are hundreds, if not thousands, of books written about Jefferson and his contemporaries, only four descriptions are known about Hemings, NBC News reported.

One, written by enslaved blacksmith Isaac Granger Jefferson, said at the time that she was “mightly near white … very handsome, long straight hair down her back.”

According to historians at Monticello, all of her children were light-skinned and two sons and one of her daughters lived in white society. Accounts at the time also said that some of her children looked like Jefferson. He also freed all of her children, but not Hemings herself. Historians said he did not grant freedom to any other slave family.

Hemings was allowed to leave Montciello after Jefferson’s death in 1826. Jefferson’s daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph granted the permission, according to officials at the historic plantation.

The plantation is undergoing a multi-year $35 million restoration to turn the clock back on Monticello to how Jefferson would have known it.

Hemings’ room is being restored and will be eventually put on display to the public. Curators are also trying to weave her story into the third president’s life.

Her story is hitting home for one of Monticello’s employees. Gayle Jessup White, the community engagement officer for Monticello, is a descendant of Hemings and Jefferson. Hemings was her great-great-great-great aunt, NBC News reported.

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