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The Hemingses of Monticello: An American…
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The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (edição 2008)

por Annette Gordon-Reed (Autor)

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1,0642914,617 (3.92)91
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.
Título:The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family
Autores:Annette Gordon-Reed (Autor)
Informação:W. W. Norton & Company (2008), Edition: Illustrated, 800 pages
Colecções:A sua biblioteca

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The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family por Annette Gordon-Reed

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Mostrando 1-5 de 29 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
I've been reading this book for so long (based on my last review here, 7 months?) that I am struggling to remember when I didn't know everything that was in it. I do recall that at the beginning I was brought up short by the author's straightforward references to Sally Hemings' children as Jefferson's, and by the end was annoyed picking up a different Jefferson biography that didn't do the same. This is a stupendous book that described a time and a place and a people so well that what I learned will just be part of me. I was most intrigued by Jefferson's relationships with Robert and James (much better documented by history than his relationship with Sally), and also by the holes in our knowledge of their lives, the stories that are lost to history. The author does a great job of showing you just how amazing and interesting their lives were, while highlighting the void left by the absence of their voices. I wanted more.

(1) And I also wanted at least another chapter on the Hemingses post-Jefferson.
(2) I also wanted more on the role of overseers in the lives of the Hemings family. When James/Jamey Hemings was brutally beaten by an overseer, I was surprised, because the role of overseers in their lives had not been established.
(3) I liked the author's informed speculation of Sally Hemings' state of mind in Paris, and regretted the absence of such speculation once Sally returned to the U.S. OTOH, when she did speculate regarding the Hemingses in this later time period, I didn't tend to agree with her. She suggested that Sally may have felt deprived by not getting to name her own children, but isn't it just as likely that she was gratified by Jefferson's attention to them? Also, I did not agree with the author's speculation on James Hemings' state of mind when he died. The author suggests he regretted turning down the opportunity to work at the White House, but isn't it just as likely that he didn't want to fall back into the subservience of being at Jefferson's beck and call, and used the request for Jefferson to write him directly as a way to wiggle out of Jefferson's expectation without directly snubbing him?
(4) The last book I read before this happened to be The Keepers of the House, a 1964 novel set in the South, and it interested me how much the world in Jefferson's time had in common with the fictional lives in the novel. The rich white man kept a black woman as his wife, had children with her, everyone in the neighborhood knew about it, but nobody cared as long as he didn't openly acknowledge his wife or children. His white daughter pretended his children came out of the ether. His white granddaughter saw his estate as hers even though it should have been theirs. When his mixed race children came of age, he sent each of them away to live as white. These relationships were common in both time periods. About 125 years later, and so much was the same. ( )
  read.to.live | Sep 28, 2021 |
Gordon-Reed, Annette. The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. Norton, 2008.
Annette Gordon-Reed has written the best history of the Hemings family that likely will ever be written. It is meticulously researched and carefully nuanced in its assessments and conclusions about the motives and feelings of Jefferson and his enslaved blended family. Sarah Hemings, called Sally, was the half-sister of Thomas Jefferson’s wife. In her early teens, she and her older brother were brought to Paris to join the widowed Jefferson’s household as a servant to his daughter Polly. He broke French law by not registering them as slaves. At some point during her 26-month stay in Paris, Sally became pregnant with Jefferson’s child. By the time they returned to America, slavery had been abolished in Revolutionary France. She and her brother could have stayed in France and thus escaped slavery, but both returned to Virginia under conditions they seem to have negotiated with Jefferson. Jefferson agreed to free her children when they turned 21. She was 16. He was 46. We know what they did, but we must guess at the emotional context of their decisions. How much self-interest, self-deception, and rational thinking were involved? The historical record is silent. But Gordon-Reed’s depiction of the lives of many members of the Hemings family suggests that they were for the most part intelligent, rational people who made the best decisions they could under conditions that gave them little agency. Jefferson, on the other hand, seems to have been afraid to lose people close to him. Slavery made it possible for him to feed the self-indulgent and self-absorbed sides of the personality, no matter the moral conflict. ( )
1 vote Tom-e | Dec 12, 2020 |
A well researched but somewhat wordy overview of US chattel slavery in general with particulars paid to the Hemingses. Very well done.
The author does a wonderful job placing the enslaved and those who owned them in upfront, honest, no nonsense terms. She makes multiple references to white supremacy and points out how propaganda and stereotypes controlled how blacks were viewed both during slavery and today in the context of slavery.
I also enjoy the attention given to the racist quotes of John and Abigail Adams. They are much beloved 'abolitionists'. This serves as an excellent reminder that most white abolitionists were as racist as their slave owning counterparts.
Multiple sources are referenced and quoted. The research is clearly impeccable. I like that this biography defies many historical standards. US history is allowed to skip over much of the actual personhood of enslaved persons under the guise of 'no reliable info'. Yet, whole stories are pieced together from even less physical and written clues about pre-written history. Applying those same techniques to the lives of the enslaved members of this country is long overdue. Enslaved Peoples were people first and foremost having a human experience. Current history, largely written and maintained by white scholars has continued to silence the voices of the enslaved much like their ancestors.
I ultimately disagree with the author in the definition of sex vs rape. The author argues that we can't know how Sally felt about her relationship with Thomas. This is true. Yet it doesn't matter as to the facts of whether or not Thomas raped her. Sex is either consensual or it is rape. Enslaved person's are incapable of consenting to sex with those that owned, managed and had authority over them. We recognize that as violating consent today and for good reason. A doctor, therapist or professor has no business placing sexual demands on their patients or students. To do so is a terminatable offense for professors. Doctors and therapists can lose their license to practice. This safe guard is in place precisely because we recognize that positions of authority undermine free will in subordinates. As an enslaved person Sally had no grounds to refuse sex to her owner. Add in to the equation that she was a young teen he had watched grow up as well as his wife's unacknowledged sister and it's disturbing. Doesn't mean they didn't love each other. Doesn't mean she didn't choose to go to his bed herself. Just like a 14 year old can't use that argument to save a 47 year old sexual partner from being charged with statutory rape, at the least, that same argument does not absolve TJ in this instance. He was wrong and yes it colors his already tainted character as a slave owner.
The author has too romantic of a view of both Sally and TJ's relationship as well TJ himself. For his rank and class he isn't a bad example. None the less he owned human beings when he knew it was wrong. He did it because it was what was best for him. He is not a good man with flaws nor is he a 'man of his times'. Both sentiments ignore the humanity of the people he enslaved. No one who traded, subjugated and sold human beings as chattel can EVER be described as a good or even ok person. To pretend like it was ok because other members of their immediate times engaged in it is the worst sort of white fragility. First it ignores that as long as slavery existed as an institution, abolitionists existed. Meaning that slave owners absolutely had access to knowledge from contemporaries that their views were wrong. Also it ignores the actual humanity of the enslaved. Slave owners completely surrounded themselves with enslaved person's they did not fsil to see their humanity, they failed to acknowledge it. They didn't fail to acknowledge their humanity cognitively, as TJ's own writings suggest. Rather, they actively ignored their humanity under the belief that their needs were more important than those of the enslaved. Every time historians and modern americans reiterate this ridiculous and extremely white supremacist concept, they continue the path started by the white founders of this nation of discrediting and dismissing the humanity of black people. For the same reasons too, fragility and convenience. ( )
1 vote LoisSusan | Dec 10, 2020 |
This book is an absolute must-read for anyone who wishes to understand the difficulties of tracing family history and 'bloodlines' of enslaved persons, and this is also must reading for anyone who wants to understand the difficulties of people of color, particularly the so-called Mulatto Families.

In Solidarity with All Kind People,
Peace via Cooperation and Non-Cooperation,
8th of December, 12015 HE

( )
  FourFreedoms | May 17, 2019 |
A fascinating book about the inconsistencies of Thomas Jefferson's views on slavery, as well as his relationship with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, after his wife died. The book is well written, but, as others have noted, it is extremely repetitive. The author takes each event in the life of Sally or one of her brothers and dissects it. She uses other sources extensively, but also tries to get the reader to imagine what it would be like to be in that person's place and make a particular decision. For example, Thomas Jefferson, Sally Hemings and one of her brothers spent a couple years in Paris. They could have been free if they had stayed when Jefferson left, but they came back with him. Why? In Sally's case it was because the future children she would have with Jefferson would be freed when they became adults. Is that sufficient reason? Why didn't she free herself? It gets complicated. She is a woman, so if her brother didn't stay with her in Paris, she would be alone and in danger. It was just before the French Revolution, so there was a lot of unrest everywhere. The author goes through each life change in great detail. So, it is a loooong book. There are discussions of Jefferson's changing ideas on slavery, how he treated black slaves versus those who had a white ancestor, his plantation slaves versus his house slaves etc. There are discussions of his finances and how it affected slaves, many of whom lost family members when he had to sell his "human property" to pay the bills.

I had to take breaks, but I am very glad I read it! ( )
  krazy4katz | May 13, 2019 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 29 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
The Hemingses of Monticello is a brilliant book. It marks the author as one of the most astute, insightful, and forthright historians of this generation. Not least of Annette Gordon-Reed's achievements is her ability to bring fresh perspectives to the life of a man whose personality and character have been scrutinized, explained, and justified by a host of historians and biographers.... While praising her grasp of the sources, her legal acuity, her erudition, and the stylishness of her narrative, it remains to be said that her great achievement lies in telling this story. Because it is one of the stories that really matter.
Engrossing and suggestive, it is also repetitive (we are frequently reminded that the law does not necessarily reflect social reality) and filled with unnecessary pronouncements about human nature (e.g., “Youth in females has attracted men in all eras across all cultures”). Readers will find it absorbing, but many will wish it had been a shorter, more focused book.

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Elizabeth Hemings began life when America was still a colonial possession. She lived through the Revolution in the home of one of the men who helped make it and died during the formative years of the American Republic, an unknown person in the midst of pivotal events in national and world history.
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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.

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