Is there any evidence that would suggest that Thomas Jefferson loved Sally Hemmings?

Expert Answers
linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What an interesting question. It inspired me to do some research, and the first thing I found was an article that asks the same question: "Did Sally Hemmings and Thomas Jefferson Love Each Other" an article in americanheritage.com. The author, Annette Gordon-Reed, states that it is difficult to talk about love in a master/slave relationship: "Strong emotions that two individuals may have had cannot mitigate the problem of slavery or Jefferson’s specific role as a slave owner." However, she does concede that the longevity of their relationship leads one to think something more than lust held it together: "While lust can last minutes, months, or even a few years, it cannot typically span the decades during which they were involved. It simply takes more than lust to sustain an interest in another person over such an extended time period." She concludes that we can never really be sure about the extent of and will always have to speculate about their feelings for each other:

The most that can be said is that Hemings and Jefferson lived together over many years and had seven children, four of whom lived to adulthood. Jefferson kept his promises to Hemings, and their offspring got a four-decade head start on emancipation, making the most of it by leading prosperous and stable lives. That, I think, is about as much as one can expect from love in the context of life during American slavery.

I hope this helps. You can read the full article at the link below.

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question