Sarah "Sally" Hemings (Charles City County, Virginia, circa 1773 – Charlottesville, Virginia, 1835) was an enslaved woman of mixed race owned by President Thomas Jefferson through his wife's inheritance. The youngest of six siblings by the planter John Wayles and his slave Betty Hemings, Hemings was the half-sister of Jefferson's wife Martha Wayles Skelton. The Hemings' and all of Wayles' slaves were inherited by the Jeffersons a year after their marriage and were taken to Monticello. The Hemings children and their descendants were trained as domestic servants and artisans.
In 1787, Sally Hemings at the age of 14 was chosen to accompany Mary (Polly), the youngest daughter of Jefferson, to Paris to rejoin her father; the widower was serving as the United States Ambassador to France. She spent two years there. Hemings and Jefferson are believed to have begun a sexual relationship then or soon after their return to Monticello. She had a total of six children of record born into slavery; four survived to adulthood and were noted for their resemblance to Jefferson. Sally Hemings served in Jefferson's household as a domestic servant until his death.
The historical question of whether Jefferson was the father of her children has been known as the Jefferson-Hemings controversy. Following renewed historic analysis and a 1998 DNA study that found a match between the Jefferson male line and a descendant of her last son, Eston Hemings, a consensus among historians supports that the widower Jefferson fathered her son Eston Hemings and likely all her children. Some historians disagree.
Even though he was deeply in debt, Jefferson freed all of Sally Hemings' children: Beverly, Harriet, Madison, and Eston, as they came of age. They were seven-eighths European in ancestry, and three of the four entered white society as adults. Their descendants identified as white. As the historian Edmund S. Morgan has noted, "Hemings herself was withheld from auction and freed at last by Jefferson’s daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph, who was, of course, her niece." Hemings lived her last nine years with her two younger sons in Charlottesville, and saw a grandchild born in the house her sons owned. After their mother's death in 1835, Eston and Madison Hemings migrated with their families to Chillicothe in the free state of Ohio.