The Hemingses of Monticello

The Hemingses of Monticello

An American Family

Book - 2008
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Historian and legal scholar Gordon-Reed presents this epic work that tells the story of the Hemingses, an American slave family, and their close blood ties to Thomas Jefferson.
Publisher: New York, NY : W.W. Norton & Co., 2008
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780393064773
Branch Call Number: 921 Hemin
Description: 798 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm


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An in-depth, highly readable history of the Hemings family of Monticello.

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Apr 13, 2020

Though this book took me a long time to read (or, rather, listen to), I found it to be extremely well-written and easy to follow. Professor Gordon-Reed was thorough and meticulous in bringing to life the Hemings family and the world they inhabited. I came into the book wanting to learn more about Sally Hemings and her family, and got that in spades, much to my delight.

Professor Gordon-Reed chronicles the lives of the Hemings family, beginning with the unnamed African enslaved woman and Captain Hemings of an English trading vessel, to their daughter Elizabeth "Betty" Hemings, and her many children and grandchildren, but the book isn't just a biographical sketch. It is much more. It gives a view of not just what slavery was like in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but the complex views of whiteness and blackness, of slavery itself, and the society that perpetuated it even as cries of "freedom" began to resound around the then-thirteen colonies.

Of course, the other principle figure in the book cannot be forgotten. The Hemings name has long been entwined with that of Thomas Jefferson, so charting the lives of the Hemingses also means charting Thomas Jefferson's, and Professor Gordon-Reed does an amazing job bringing to life Jefferson's views amid the society he lived in, his own personality, and how that impacted the Hemings family.

Again, I very much enjoyed this book. I found Gordon-Reed's style to be easy to follow as I listened, and found what she had written to be very thought-provoking. I came into the book expecting to learn more about Sally Hemings and her relationship with Thomas Jefferson, and also about her family, and Professor Gordon-Reed did not disappoint. I was fascinated to learn about Sally's mother, siblings, nieces and nephews, and her children. All of them were remarkable and interesting, and I wish we were able to know more of them.

Jan 11, 2020

It is a great book to learn the truth about Jefferson

SPOILER: Sally Hemings was Jefferson's wife's half-sister. There was a strong family resemblance.

Jul 26, 2019

Read like a research textbook with very small print. Good subject matter but impossible for me to read.

Jun 30, 2018

An incredibly well researched book! It was intriguing, well developed and educational. I learned so much about Thomas Jefferson, the Hemings extended family and the realities of the life of slaves. This was a huge undertaking, and I believe the author has produced a book of great importance. I highly recommend it!

This book includes the most fascinating depiction of the institution of slavery I've ever read. It is much more than the story of the Hemings family and their impossibly complicated relationships with Thomas Jefferson. I was fascinated throughout.

Apr 07, 2016

The depth and historical accuracy are fantastic and it is a story that needs to be told but as with others I almost abandoned the book because of the redundancies. Too many words!!

Nov 13, 2015

There were many aspects of this book that were extremely thought provoking and interesting. However, the writer makes the same points over and over and over until I was just about ready to abandon reading the book. It would be a much better read with some better editing.

Oct 03, 2015

The author is a lawyer and evaluates evidence from a lawyer's broad, but disciplined perspective. She distinguishes between what is known and what cannot be known, and includes evidence for evaluating various hypotheses.

To help readers she has included diagrams of the Hemmings family tree and a chronology of the Hemmings Family.

Feb 10, 2013

I read it in 2009. It revealed what a paradoxical life Jefferson led ~ he was in love with one of his slaves, yet he continued to keep slaves. Even so, there is no denying the great contributions he made to society.

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