A new episode of the Madison presidency series is now available!
Feb. 1, 2021

3.26 – Present but Absent: The Hemings Family of Monticello

3.26 – Present but Absent: The Hemings Family of Monticello

Year(s) Discussed: 1735-1873

Throughout Jefferson’s life and career, he was surrounded and served by various enslaved individuals of three generations of the same family. In this episode, we examine the lives of the Hemings family as some worked to attain their freedom, other Hemingses disappeared from the historical record without a trace, and one became the most famous enslaved individual in the United States for bearing the third President’s children.


Special thanks to Countryboi of One Mic: Black History Podcast for providing the intro quote for this episode and to Andrew Pfannkuche for his audio editing assistance with this episode!

  • Brodie, Fawn M. Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History. New York: Bantam Books, 1985 [1974].
  • Gordon-Reed, Annette. The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. New York and London: W W Norton & Co, 2008.
  • Hemings, Madison. “Life among the Lowly, No. 1.” Pike County (Ohio) Republican. 13 Mar 1873. Reprinted in Sally Hemings & Thomas Jefferson: History, Memory, and Civic Culture. Jan Ellen Lewis and Peter S. Onuf, eds. Charlottesville, VA and London: University Press of Virginia, 1999 [1999].
  • Jefferson, Thomas. “To Francis Eppes, 30 August 1785,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-15-02-0597. [Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 15, 27 March 1789 – 30 November 1789, ed. Julian P. Boyd. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958, pp. 621–623.] [Last Accessed: 2 Jan 2021]
  • Jefferson, Thomas. “To Martha Jefferson Randolph, 21 January 1805,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/99-01-02-1020. [Last Accessed: 30 Nov 2020]
  • Kierner, Cynthia A. Martha Jefferson Randolph, Daughter of Monticello: Her Life and Times. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2012.
  • Landry, Jerry. The Presidencies of the United States. 2017-2021. http://presidencies.blubrry.com.
  • Malone, Dumas. Jefferson the Virginian: Jefferson and His Time, Volume One. Boston: Little, Brown and Co, 1948.
  • McGrath, Tim. James Monroe: A Life. New York: Penguin Random House, 2020.
  • Miller, John Chester. The Wolf by the Ears: Thomas Jefferson and Slavery. Charlottesville, VA and London: University Press of Virginia, 1991 [1977].
  • Sublette, Ned, and Constance Sublette. The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 2016.

Additional information on the Hemings family can be found at the Monticello website.

Featured Image: “View of the West Front of Monticello and Garden” by Jane Braddock [c. 1825], courtesy of Wikipedia

Intro and Outro Music: Selections from “Jefferson and Liberty” as performed by The Itinerant Band