Kimberly Bradley’s historical-fiction novel is about the sons of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. About their growing awareness of the secret that everyone at Monticello knew, but not one soul spoke aloud. About the boys’ dilemma as they loved their father, hungered for his approval, and became convinced that they were their father’s property… never to be acknowledged as his Sons.
Thomas Jefferson, was a great man. He was the primary author of The Declaration of Independence, President of the United States from 1801-1809. Thomas Jefferson was the architect and builder of two of the most beautiful homes in the United States, Monticello and the octagonal home Poplar Forest. He founded the University of Virginia. He, also, owned slaves .
Like this slave family, three of Sally Hemings’ children were of a light skin color. As adults, Beverly, Harriet, and Easton would be able to pass for white. Because their skin color was so light, Beverly and Harriet escaped Monticello when they turned 21. They were allowed to leave because they were the children of Sally Hemings’ and Thomas Jefferson. Madison (Maddy) was darker. He and Easton remained at Monticello until given their freedom in Jefferson’s will. Like many Southern slave owners, Thomas Jefferson was not tolerant when his slaves ran.
Thomas Jefferson’s slave, Sandy escaped twice. The first time he was captured, Jefferson ordered Sandy’s whipping. Jefferson’s entire slave population, including the Hemings children were forced to watch. The second time Sandy escaped and was captured, he was whipped and sold to a cotton plantation in the deep south. Sandy’s crime was tryin g to obtain his freedom!
The Hemings family lived on Thomas Jefferson’s plantation “ Monticello” in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia. The sons of Thomas Jefferson grew up as slaves in the shadow of their Father’s stately home.
The Heming’s living quarters. Skilled slaves at Monticello lived on Mulberry Row. Not one of the log houses is still standing. The illustration above is a good representation of those houses. The Hemings family lived in a room below the kitchen appendage.
Monticello was Jefferson’s official residence. Here he entertained any and all who came to visit. When the duties of a famous head-of-state became too much, Jefferson escaped to his beloved octagonal home and plantation, ‘Poplar Forest.’ At Poplar Forest only those closest to him were allowed to stay or visit. “ I have fixed myself comfortably, keep some books here, bring others occasionally, am in the solitude of a hermit, and quite at leisure to attend to my absent friends.” Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was an agricultural pioneer. He was especially proud of his gardens. As children the sons of the man that wrote “that all men are created equal, worked as slaves in their Father’s gardens.
President Thomas Jefferson dispatched the Lewis & Clark exploration of the Louisiana Purchase. Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark The Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis & Clark Route
The unmarked graves of skilled slaves were excavated at the end of Mulberry Row. The epitaph on the tombstone of Thomas Jefferson reads, "author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia“
Slave family waiting to be sold. When he died, Thomas Jefferson was $107,000 in debt. Mostly because of construction on his plantations and his spending habits. To pay the debts on his estate, 130 slaves from Monticello were sold and their families torn apart. Jefferson freed only 5 slaves in his will, all were related to Sally Hemings.