Sally Hemings (1773-1835) is one of the most famous—and least known—African-American women in U.S. history. For more than 200 years, Hemings’ name has been linked to former President Thomas Jefferson as his “concubine,” obscuring the facts of her life and her identity.

Come and learn the real story about Sally Hemings and her connection to Jefferson from Hemings Family descendant, Gayle Jessup White, Monitcello’s Community Engagement Officer. Jessup White and Monticello historian Niya Bates will lead a riveting discussion about Hemings' legacy and the current Monticello exhibition about her family. A question and answer segment will follow the presentation.

Thomas Jefferson owned 607 men, women and children over the course of his lifetime. His primary plantation, Monticello is now a historic site and museum in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Hemings family remains one of the best documented enslaved families in the United States with gripping narratives of struggle, survival and family bonds across generations. Their story echoes the history of race and slavery in America.

About The Presenters

Gayle Jessup White, Community Engagement Officer, Thomas Jefferson Foundation

Gayle is the first Hemings family descendant to be employed at Monticello. As a fellow at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, she was able to confirm her family's oral tradition connected to Jefferson through research of old letters, documents and records.

A former award-winning TV reporter and anchor, Gayle holds a BA from Howard University and MS in Journalism from Northwestern University. Since joining Monticello, Jessup White has expanded the Foundation's message of truth and reconciliation to diverse audiences, not only in Charlottesville, but throughout the country.

Niya Bates, Public Historian of Slavery and African American Life, Thomas Jefferson Foundation

Niya was born and raised in Charlottesville, VA and studied African and African American Studies at the University of Virginia earning her BA in 2012. She earned a master’s in Architectural History and certificate in Historic Preservation from UVA in 2015.

Prior to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Niya has worked at James Madison’s Montpelier. In her current role, she works closely with the Getting Word African American oral history project, which collects and preserves family histories for descendants of the people once enslaved at Monticello.

Super Size With An Add-On Experience!

Living History: Charlotte to Charlottesville Day Trip

Come along on Saturday, September 22 for Monticello’s 12th annual Heritage Harvest Festival. Be among the first to see the newly opened exhibits that spotlight and honor the legacy of Sally Hemings and African-American life and contributions at Monticello. The day trip by deluxe motor coach includes private guide, house, garden and exhibit tours, festival admission and meals.

Click here for more details.


The Harvey B. Gantt Center is a proud partner with Duke Energy in presenting our 2018-2019 Heritage & History series. This program series features nationally noted artists and scholars who are preserving Black culture through an array of disciplines and media. In hosting each culture keeper, the Gantt Center invites public participation in special events and experiences that illuminate important stories and engage audiences.

Forthcoming commemorations of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Africans in Virginia in 1619, along with the Broadway sensation Hamilton and latest revelations about Sally Hemings’ family and life at Monticello, have heightened public interest in the earliest days of America. Timely in its focus, this series honors the lives, stories and influence of Black people who helped create our country.

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