Archaeologists have discovered the living quarters of Sally Hemings — the enslaved African American woman who bore six of Thomas Jefferson’s children — at Jefferson’s Monticello estate. The room, 13 feet long and just under 15 feet wide, was adjacent to Jefferson’s bedroom.
Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and was the third president the United States.
“This discovery gives us a sense of how enslaved people were living,” said Gardiner Hallock, director of restoration for Monticello, in a report by NBC News. “Some of Sally’s children may have been born in this room.”
Historians hit on a possible location for Hemings’ living quarters by studying a description related by one of Jefferson’s grandsons, who said Hemings’ room was in Monticello’s south wing.
Monticello’s director of archaeology, Fraser Neiman, said digging revealed the original brick fireplace, hearth, and early 19th century floors.
“This room is a real connection to the past,” Neiman said. “We are uncovering and discovering and we’re finding many, many artifacts.”
Gayle Jessup White is Sally Hemings’ great-great-great-great niece and also works at Monticello’s Community Engagement Officer.
“As an African American descendant, I have mixed feelings — Thomas Jefferson was a slave holder,” White said, in the NBC News report. I am appreciative of the work that my colleagues are doing at Monticello because this is an important American story. But for too long our history has been ignored. Some people still don’t want to admit that the Civil War was fought over slavery. We need to face history head-on and face the blemish of slavery and that’s what we’re doing at Monticello.”