Sally Hemings, part one

Sally Hemings was born in 1773 to enslaved mother Elizabeth Hemings and Elizabeth’s enslaver, John Wayles. She grew up alongside her mother and siblings in enslavement in Virginia at around the same time as the American Revolution.

In part one, we learn about Sally’s family and childhood and how a series of coincidences led her to live in Paris just before the French Revolution.

0:00 Intro

10:34 Sally’s story begins

36:16 Ads

1:06:15 Extro

The image for this episode is from the multimedia installation The Life of Sally Hemings at Thomas Jefferson’s plantation home, Monticello. Learn about the exhibit here (spoilers for part two of this podcast, if you don’t already know her story!)


The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed

The Life of Sally Hemings (

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Vulgar History Podcast

Sally Hemings, Part One

June 19, 2024 

Ann Foster:
Hello and welcome to Vulgar History, a feminist women’s history comedy podcast. My name is Ann Foster and I want to introduce myself because, you know, I try to think about this every time I do an episode: someone is listening to this podcast for the first time. I’m pretty sure that whenever I do somebody that’s better known when I cover a more famous historical person, a few more new people are interested or might come and join the show and I want to let those people know what they’re in for, basically. One of the reasons I want to do that and one of the reasons that I know that that happens is that sometimes, you know, I see the comments people leave on Spotify and other places and sometimes it’s people who expect the show to be a certain thing and when it’s not, they express their displeasure in the form of comments that I see and generally don’t publish. So, I wanted to just let everybody know what they’re in for because today we’re talking about Sally Hemings who is, as I understand it, pretty well-known in the US as a person, as a part of American history. So, welcome new people who haven’t listened to this podcast before. I’m going to break it down for you. 

First of all, the show is called Vulgar History. The reason it’s called Vulgar History is because before I was doing this podcast, I was writing historical essays about people and the whole vibe of these essays is what I bring to this podcast as well. I research something and then I rephrase it in a way that’s conversational, that’s casual, and that is a way that I find I can understand things better. When I understand a story well enough that I can explain it in a casual way, that means I know that I understand it well enough, and I have found through the success of this podcast that people are into that. So, when I was writing these essays, they were very conversational and they had swear words in them and stuff, I got a comment at one point from somebody, they’ll never know (because I’m sure they don’t follow me anymore) how they helped me figure out this brand because they left a comment being like, “I like your essays but I wish you didn’t use so much vulgar language.” And then I called this podcast Vulgar History, so people know I’m going to use vulgar language. 

I want to briefly define, Oxford Dictionary, there’s a couple different meanings of ‘vulgar.’ The first meaning of the word means “characteristic of or belonging to the masses.” So, it didn’t used to mean the context that the word ‘vulgar’ has now. What it originally meant is this is the way that normal, everyday people talk. This is not special, it’s not the way that people who go to university talk in oldy-times, the priests or the kings. The ‘vulgar tongue’ is what it was called, the way that everyday people talked, and it was looked down upon as a less important or a less acceptable way to talk but it was how people talked and eventually, most people talk this way. When you listen to even today’s wealthy billionaires or whatever, they try to be like, “Hey guys, how are you?” They’re talking in a way to try and appeal to the vulgar tongue. They want to be like, “I’m just like you.” 

So, that’s one meaning of the word ‘vulgar.’ It means the way that people talk when they’re talking to each other when they’re not doing a presentation, when they’re not being fancy and that’s what this podcast is, I’m just talking to you like I met up with a friend over some cocktails and I’m telling you some stuff I’ve been researching. That’s the vibe. I’m going to talk casually, I’m going to say ‘like’ a lot, one might say I say ‘like’ a normal amount. I’m going to say ‘umm,’ I’m going to interrupt myself, I’m going to go off on tangents because that’s the whole, that’s what this podcast is, it’s casual talking. So, if that’s not your thing, if you want to just hear somebody read and list off facts from a prepared script, there are lots of podcasts like that, and/or you could read an encyclopedia, you could read a lot of biographies of people. If you want to listen, listen to an audiobook version of a biography of people, that’s not what this show is.

Now, in recent times, the word ‘vulgar’ is more generally understood to mean, “explicit and offensive reference to sex or bodily functions, coarse and rude. Example: A vulgar joke.” And you know what? This show is that also. I make jokes, I make some racy jokes, I talk about body parts and I’m going to do that as well. Also, ‘vulgar’ is currently understood to mean, “lacking sophistication or good taste, unrefined,” which this podcast also is. 

So, I like the name Vulgar History. I first chose it just to troll this person who said a silly thing to one of my essays. And then also, I like that it’s all three meanings; this is history for the masses, this is history for the just the average person, and I’m also going to make explicit jokes, and I’m also going to be lacking sophistication and that’s what this show is bringing to you. So, point number one is that. Point number two is that at the top of every episode, and this is why I say it, so people know what they’re in for as well, this is a feminist women’s history comedy podcast. From the beginning, I defined the show in that way, so people know it’s not a super academic podcast that is going to uphold the way that history has so often been taught. 

So, for instance, feminist. The way I define myself, I like to define myself by that word because for a long time, I didn’t, and I know that right now it’s maybe not a popular way to define yourself, so I especially like to use it now because some people are like, “I’m not a feminist. That’s, like, man-hating.” And yeah, it is, for me. Technically it’s not but for me… So many stories about history that people have been taught over the last, let’s say, 100 years, the way that history was written down, not just that history is written by the victors but also, it’s like, look at these “great men,” look at the great things they did. And a lot of them did shitty things and they were not actually great but in order to make them seem great, you have to bypass a lot of the shitty things they did and the other people who were negatively affected by the things they did. So, I’m looking at stories on this podcast in a way that basically shit talks the patriarchy and that also means looking at and elevating the stories of marginalized people in all kinds of different ways like poor people, people of colour, queer people, looking at the stories of people who are not the white, cishet, “great men” of history. But also, the patriarchy includes white supremacy and colonization and stuff, and this podcast is looking at stories not from that point of view, not from the point of view that those things were good or inevitable. 

So, feminist women’s history which basically overlaps with what I just said but you know, I’m going to be talking shit about the “great men of history.” And it’s a comedy podcast. I say that because I’m going to be making jokes, I’m going to be having long asides, there’s going to be tangents. As a thought occurs to me in the middle of a story, I might start talking about, like, for instance, the 1976 British mini-series I, Claudius. I call it a comedy podcast, I don’t know, there’s lots of people who find lots of things I do funny and then there’s people who think that it’s going to be the sort of podcast that comedians do where it’s like joke, joke, joke. It’s more like, especially if you listen to a lot of episodes, you’ll see the recurring inside jokes we have. But anyway, I’m saying all that for people who are new to this podcast so you can opt out at this point if that’s not the sort of podcast you want to listen to. 

Furthermore, because today we’re talking about Sally Hemings, we’re talking about American history, I think it is important for people to know that I am Canadian, not American. This means that every country I talk about, except for Canada, I am looking at inherently as a foreign country because it is. I did not grow up in America, I did not grow up being taught American history, nor did I grow up being taught, you know, Swedish history, or New Zealand history, or Indian history. All of these things are new to me so I’m just learning them for the first time now as an adult. So, I want to let American people know, you may not be aware, Americans, of how much of the world’s pop culture has Americans as kind of the main characters of it, like movies and TV shows and celebrity gossip. People all around the world know about the traditions of American Thanksgiving, or the fact that you have Founding Fathers, or who George Washington is in a way that Americans in general don’t know those sorts of things about the history of Finland or like, Hungary. So, I’m learning things about American history that Americans might assume people already knew, but I didn’t. 

So, also, I mean, I guess content warning, I’m going to be shit-talking over this season (this season of the podcast which is looking at the revolutions of the long 18th century) I’m going to be shit-talking most of the American Founding Fathers because turns out, when you’re reading their story and you weren’t growing up reading the propaganda about how they were all so great and everything they did was so great, when you’re looking at it from an objective point of view, turns out they were all kind of shitty people who did kind of shitty things, except for maybe Benjamin Franklin, but I haven’t read about him super a lot and I reserve the right to shit talk him later. Anyway, if this is not your thing, hearing America spoken about as a foreign country, being examined in an objective way, then there are lots of other podcasts you can listen to instead, or you can go listen to the cast recording of the musical Hamilton, those songs are great. 

So, we’re going to be talking today about Sally Hemings. She’s one of the most famous people, one of the most famous women in American history, I think, based on a survey I did of American listeners. You know, I recorded the actual story about her a bit ago and I’m pretty sure I explain all that stuff in that. So, let’s just cut right to it, we’re going to talk about Sally Hemings here on Vulgar History.


So, Sally Hemings. Now, I did a little survey a few months ago, I asked people on Patreon, I asked people on my Instagram stories, just Americans, I was curious to know how famous various people are in America because we’re going to be talking about American people in the next several episodes. I just really wanted to because I’m Canadian, I have never studied colonial history, I just kind of vaguely know there were these guys with little ponytails on, the musical Hamilton I’m familiar with. So anyway, I was just curious how famous who is, in America, and I was interested to see that today’s subject, Sally Hemings is the second best-known woman on my list of people. The best-known woman, Martha Washington, more on her in a future episode. But Sally Hemings, 76.9% of people surveyed had heard of her which is much higher than most of the other women on the list. 

So, she’s someone who Americans know about and people not in America, I don’t know how much you know about her or not but what I want to do in this episode, and we’ll see if I accomplish this, is to tell her story, the way that I did if you listen to the Mary, Queen of Scots season, assuming… not explaining what’s going on until the thing happens. I don’t want to have a lot of foreshadowing because some of the writing is about this, most of the writings about her assume a certain knowledge of American revolutionary history that I didn’t necessarily have that people listening may or may not have. So, I’m just going to really explain this, I’m Canadian, so as objectively as I can just looking at the history of another country that I’m not familiar with. 

I do want to shout out friend of the podcast, Lana Wood Johnson, who did help me in a few clutch moments in the research of this, specifically involving presidential elections and American history. The main/only source I used for this episode was the incredible book The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed. I had done an episode on Patreon, I do episodes there sometimes about terrible men from history, and I did one about Thomas Jefferson. In so doing, I had listened to some podcasts about him and, spoiler, Thomas Jefferson is going to be in this story and Sally Hemings’s life intersects with his, and so I was like, first I could just dust off those notes and focus on Sally Hemings a bit more. But I was like, I want to read more about Sally Hemings. So, this seems to be, I suppose I could tell, the book on the topic. 

This book, it’s from 2008 by American historian Annette Gordon-Reed and she did so much work; she studied legal records, diaries, farm books, letters, wills, newspapers, archives, and also oral history from the Hemings family. And so, the book has won 16 awards. I was reading the book and I was like, this is a really good book but it’s also very dense in a way that the books I look at for research aren’t always. I would have to read a page or two and take a moment to like, absorb what I just read and then read the next page. It’s so full of such interesting, thoughtful, thought-provoking information and then I’m like, okay, because this book won the Pulitzer Prize. Actually, Annette Gordon-Reed was the first African American to be awarded this prize, it’s won so many prizes, the National Book Award for Nonfiction, all kinds of things. So, this is an incredibly good book. 

So, what I did with this book was A) read it, and then B) really just pull out the Sally stuff. I really recommend this book because there are lots of side characters who show up, Sally, some of her siblings, if you want to know what happens with them or some of the Jefferson people, she really talks about everyone’s life. It’s a big intersection of all these people over several generations in this book is really good. But what I pulled out for this episode is Sally herself because I want this book to be a tribute to a woman who is often a supporting character, or a side note in the lives of other people. I wanted to make her the main character, Sally Hemings.

Her mother was named Elizabeth Hemings, sometimes called Betty Hemings. And Elizabeth Hemings, Sally’s mom, was born in the 1730s in Virginia. This was a time when chattel slavery was dramatically expanding in Virginia. Just so we’re all clear, chattel slavery refers to the colonial system of slavery which was practiced in all of the original 13 British colonies in what is now America. “In this system, enslaved people were the personal property of their owners for life, a source of labour or a commodity that could be willed, traded, or sold like livestock or furniture.” So, we’re back in Virginia. If you just joined us this season, you may not have heard a month or two ago, we did an episode in that between-seasons era where I was talking about Matoaka AKA Pocahontas and that was the founding of Virginia. So, this is the same Virginia, 116 years later from when Matoaka/Pocahontas was there. So, Virginia, bear in mind, was founded by The Virginia Company, not a country, by a company, as a money-making enterprise. So, Virginia was a place for men to seek their fortunes, versus some of the northern colonies in what is now the United States where it was like Puritans fleeing religious persecution. This was all business. 

In order to make money doing business, and the business was agriculture-based, largely, they needed to get as much physical labour done as possible but they needed to pay the least amount of money on that physical labour, which is why these men, for they were men, turned to chattel slavery, workers that they didn’t pay and who would work for them forever. This was a different form of slavery than what had been in place in England. These guys came over from England, The Virginia Company, and then they invented their own system of bondage that was based on race. So, back in England because this is all pre-American Revolution, it’s all British people. 

In Britain, a person’s status was based on who their father was and then in 1662, when the Virginians were inventing the rules for their kind of slavery, they were like, “How about not that? How about we go back to Ancient Roman days, to the rule Partus sequitur ventrem,” which means, whoever your mother was is what your identity is going to be. This meant that children would inherit enslaved status from their mother, even if their father was not enslaved. This removed an escape route for children born to enslaved mothers in that– And this is a way that Virginia slavery could keep perpetuating itself and eventually not have to keep taking more people from African countries. Enslaved women would have children and those children would become the new slaves. So yeah, children were born enslaved due to who their mother was, even if a white father, for instance, like a white, plantation-owning enslaver father, that child if it was born to an enslaved woman would still be enslaved. There was no legal advantage to being mixed-race or light-skinned because everything came down to your mother’s identity, not what she looked like.

So, Elizabeth Hemings, Sally’s mom, was born in this situation. Her mother, Parthenia, had been an enslaved woman from Africa and her father, we just know his last name was Hemings, was a captain of an English trading vessel and this is where she got her surname from, Hemings. The Hemingses of Monticello is the name of the book that I read, she proudly carried on this surname. So, she was born at a plantation in Virginia called Bermuda Hundred and that’s where she grew up until age about 11 and the reason that she was moved at that point was that the owner’s daughter had brought her and other enslaved people with her because she got married. We’ll see this happen at other times in the story, when the daughter of a plantation house got married, she would go to start her own new household and she’d bring with her some of the enslaved people who she had inherited from her parents. 

So, the owner’s daughter at this point is named Martha Eppes, and there’s going to be numerous Marthas in this story, so we’re going to call her Martha 1. So, Martha 1 got married to John Wayles and so Elizabeth was moved to go serve her in that household. So, when Elizabeth had been born, her father, Captain Hemings, acknowledged her as his daughter, which is why she has this surname; everyone knew she had this surname, and it was accepted she had this surname. After she was moved to go live with Martha 1, her father Captain Hemings tried to buy her which (we’ll also get into more of this later on in the story) but this was a way, I don’t know, Annette Gordon-Reed doesn’t know exactly what the context was of why Captain Hemings was trying to buy his daughter, but this was a way that some families could stay together, mixed-race families, if you buy the enslaved child of your Black sexual partner, then at least they’d be under your roof, they’d be in your home. But when Captain Hemings tried to buy Elizabeth, Mr. Wayles refused to sell the child. Captain Hemings then tried to steal Elizabeth away but was stopped. 

So, Elizabeth’s life, much like the life of her daughter, Sally, was affected by the fact that she was probably very beautiful. I want to emphasize this is not to do with skin tone necessarily. She was a mixed-race woman so probably a bit lighter skin tone but lighter skin tone, but lighter skin tone wasn’t necessarily seen as, “That’s more beautiful,” it was just her facial features. She was probably just seen as very beautiful to other people and as a fact of the way that people treated her, they treated her a bit differently. This is maybe part of why John Wayles, Martha 1’s father refused to sell her. Maybe he was like, “She’s 11 but she’s really pretty and I just want to see how this goes, I want to keep this really pretty young girl around me.”

So, as a young child, as an 11-year-old, her duties probably included household chores other than cooking, she’s too young for cooking, she’s just 11 at this point. She probably served as nurse or minder so, gosh, we’re already into all of the Marthas. So, Martha 1 was the owner’s daughter, she got married to John Wayles. She then died giving birth to her daughter, Martha 2. So, Elizabeth, 11 years old, 12 years old, she probably became sort of like a nurse/helper to Martha 2, the little baby. “Young, enslaved girls would have been considered suitable to look after a very young child, or at least helping an older woman to do so.” So, Elizabeth and Martha 2, they’re spending time together in this situation. And then the years go by and Elizabeth, when she was 18 years old, she also became a mother. Her first child was a daughter who she named Mary, two years later she gave birth to Martin, four years later to Betty, and two years later, Nancy. No record of the identity of these children’s father has been found, even by Annette Gordon-Reed who was, goodness knows, doing all of the work looking at all these papers and things. But part of what she was looking at, Annette Gordon-Reed, was family tradition, oral history which suggests that these children may have been fathered by a white man, but other people suggest maybe their father was a Black man. We just don’t know who the dad was of these children. 

During this period of time, when Elizabeth was being a young woman, a young mom, John Wayles married two more times because he married, and his wife died, and then he married, and his wife died. So, his second marriage produced a daughter, Elizabeth, who we’re going to call Elizabeth 2 because Elizabeth Hemings is Elizabeth 1. Elizabeth 2 comes up later. And then he got married again to a woman also called Elizabeth, Elizabeth 3. So, America, you know, I was having a nice time reading, well, as nice a time as one can have reading American history. I was appreciating the fact that everyone in this story was, not unlike in the Mary, Queen of Scots season called Mary or James, but it turns out everyone is called Elizabeth and Martha. So, same thing everywhere. Elizabeth 3 becomes John Wayles’s third wife. 

By then, Elizabeth Hemings had this clearly established special status in the eyes of the Wayles family, different from other enslaved people. So, for instance, when John Wayles married Elizabeth 3, he wrote out a new will because when you marry a wife, she’s going to inherit stuff and what are her children going to inherit? And he specifically singled out Elizabeth Hemings and another enslaved woman called Jenny, who was the cook, to become property of his new wife should he pre-decease her and upon her death, it would be inherited by his daughter, Martha 2. Ultimately, there’s a lot of will talk in this episode, but what this really meant was that Elizabeth 3 inheriting wasn’t as important as the fact that he wanted Elizabeth Hemings and Jenny the cook to go to Martha 2 eventually. This could just be that he wanted to ensure his daughter got a good cook and housekeeper. So, Elizabeth Hemings was a standout in that way, she was one of the two people named although note that she was listed as Elizabeth or Betty Hemings, Jenny the cook, no surname. That’s because Elizabeth’s dad, Captain Hemings had acknowledged her as his daughter; not all enslaved people had that, they didn’t all have surnames. 

So, the wife, my goodness, Elizabeth… Elizabeth 3. Elizabeth 3, this wife, John Wayles’s third wife died, after which John Wayles began fathering children with Elizabeth Hemings. So, over the next ten years, they had five children together, five mixed-race children; Robert, James, Thenia, Critta, and Peter were their names. So, these children had three white grandparents and one Black grandparent. In the book, Annette Gordon-Reed describes, you could say these are three-quarters white people but born into slavery and again, your skin tone didn’t affect your status of being enslaved or not, it was just who was your mother. 

So, if you think about this, Elizabeth Hemings, just in terms of– because what everybody looks like does come up again and again in this story. So, Elizabeth Hemings was mixed race, she had a white father and a Black mother, and she had these children with a white man, so she was a mixed-race woman who had children with a white man. So, like, the skin tone is getting lighter and lighter, of these children. All the children also inherited her surname, Hemings, instead of John Wayles’s surname. So, he didn’t acknowledge them the same way that Captain Hemings had but kind of everyone knew that he was the father of these children. So, in terms of what these people all look like, and spoiler, Sally Hemings is the youngest child of this pairing of people. When she was older, Sally was described as being, “near white, light-skinned with straight hair down her back.” So, this is what they’re all kind of looking like, so we can picture them. There’s no portraits at all of any of these people in this story, any of the Hemingses I mean, so we can maybe imagine what she looked like. 

So, Elizabeth Hemings, having children with John Wayles. Her son Peter was born the same year that Martha 2, (remember, she was a little baby who Elizabeth watched when she was a teenager), Martha 2, now a hot, young teen as well, started being courted by her husband-to-be who was a lawyer named Thomas Jefferson. So, Martha 2 married Thomas Jefferson in 1772 and it’s like, basically Martha 2 had a daughter. Guess what she called her daughter? Martha. This is Martha 3. And then one year later, Elizabeth Hemings had her sixth and final child fathered by John Wayles, who was a daughter named Sarah but always called Sally, Sally Hemings, which is the main person who we’re building up to talking about in this episode. Just bear in mind that Martha 3, the daughter of Thomas Jefferson and Martha 2 was one year older than Sally Hemings. 

The same year that Sally was born, John Wayles died, which presumably is why Elizabeth Hemings stopped having children. “This put Elizabeth and her children on an uncertain path because he had died, the chances of their being sold and separated increased enormously.” And this was such, like… I want to focus on Sally’s story, and Sally’s story means talking a lot about slavery, which we have been doing. Annette Gordon-Reed gets into all this stuff, but just for what it means for a family to have no control or power over if you’re going to be separated or not. There’s every shitty thing for this situation and this is one of the shitty things, the fact that once your owner died, enslaved people could be separated, mothers from children. Enslaved people weren’t allowed to get married but there were people in long-term relationships, they could be separated, et cetera. 

It took a year for the estate to be settled. Ultimately, it was decided that Elizabeth and her six children, and one grandchild (because her children were so spread out in age, her oldest daughter Mary Hemings had had a son by now called Daniel Farley) were all sent together to a farm in Amelia County that was owned by the Wayles family. And then some of the children were separated, I think some of the younger from the older ones in the next move to Thomas Jefferson’s farm, Elk Hill in Goochland County but then all the Hemings siblings and their mother were all reunited in 1775 when they moved to Thomas Jefferson’s new home in progress which was called Monticello. Sally Hemings at this point was 2 years old. 

So, Monticello is a very, very famous house/tourist destination in Virginia and we’ll talk at the very end about the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and all the stuff they’ve done to fix the house up and make it look beautiful. I think it’s on some American money, one of your bills has this house on it, it’s the most famous house in the United States, maybe second after the White House, I don’t know. But during this entire story, please bear in mind it was constantly under construction and kind of messy and not gloriously perfect-looking. 

So, through all of these moves, the Hemings were kind of shuffling around from house to house. So, Martha 2, the daughter of John Wayles, was the half-sibling of all of the younger Hemings including Sally. And Martha 2 had, we know she had dark brown hair because later a lock of her hair was found in a locket. So, she might have also in some ways resembled, physically looked like some of the Hemings girls. So, she could have chosen not to bring Elizabeth – who was her father’s long-term mistress, some of the writings describe her as a concubine – Martha 2 could have chosen not to bring Elizabeth and the Hemings siblings who were her mixed-race half-siblings. She could have not taken them with her when she moved from house to house but she chose, three times in a row, to have them around. She valued them, she appreciated them, and this could be partially… We don’t know what was in her heart, but another person might have said, “I don’t want my father’s mistresses around, I don’t want these reminders of these half-siblings who are children. I can’t…” Another person might not have wanted that, but Martha had had a lot of loss. Her mother died in childbirth, it might just be she had people around who she felt comfortable with, who she recognized and knew, and who she knew were sort of… I’m saying “sort of” like, they were her family, they were her half-siblings, and also were enslaved by her. So, the whole family situation in this is just fucking weird. But she kept choosing to have them around and Thomas Jefferson, her husband, seemingly, also appreciated that the Hemings were to be treated differently from other enslaved people. 

So, he singled out Elizabeth’s oldest three sons for special treatment. He gave them each more freedom than other enslaved people had, they were allowed to travel around independently, they were educated in trades, they were allowed to learn to read and write, they could hire themselves out to other employers and were permitted to keep their wages. Maybe this was partially because they were, Martha… I’m mixing up my Marthas, Martha 2’s half-brothers so he was treating them, I would presume the way that John Wayles would have been treating them, the way that Martha 2 wanted them to be treated, with special privileges. Not freed, not emancipated, not made into free men, but Thomas Jefferson had them in this situation where they were sort of treated, maybe similar to lower class white men who were not enslaved but they were still enslaved. 

We’re going to talk a lot about Thomas Jefferson’s psychology, but he really had a thing where he wanted everyone to like him and also, he wanted everyone to think he was a really good guy. So, he treated them in this way and then presumably, he thought that would make people look at him and be like, “Look at that! He’s not the other enslavers, he’s a cool enslaver.” 

So, none of the Hemings boys were put to work in agriculture as the other enslaved men and boys were at Monticello, there were hundreds of slaves there. The Hemings boys would work within the house, or they would travel with Thomas Jefferson to attend to him, I think he referred to them as servants instead of as his slaves and that’s partially because he, Thomas Jefferson, liked to live in this fantasy reality where nothing unpleasant was happening. I kept trying to think, who does this remind me of? Is it the Wizard from the Wizard of Oz? He just wanted everyone to be happy around him or at least he wanted everyone to seem happy around him and to pretend like, he was… I’m going to say Thomas Jefferson had enough self-awareness to be kind of embarrassed to be a Virginia enslaver but not so embarrassed to not be that but embarrassed enough that he liked to cosplay like he wasn’t that, which is why he had mostly light-skinned servants around him who he would call servants. He built his house in Monticello on the top of a mountain, they had to cut off the top of the mountain, and then where the fields were, where the majority of the enslaved people would work and also live, he was literally above it, he didn’t have to look at it or think about it, and the only people who were around him, he got them to sort of pretend like they were servants and not enslaved. It’s all pretty fucked up. 

The Hemings women and girls were also exempted from field work even on days when like, all hands on deck; every enslaved person had to go there at harvest time, the Hemings were not sent there. “The Hemings women and girls performed household chores like sewing, mending clothes, looking after children and baking cakes.” So, the Hemings girls and women were also dressed differently from other enslaved people at Monticello. The house staff, again, it’s enslaved people, but the Hemings, it was just all Hemings all the time inside of this house and as the Hemings paired up and started having children, they couldn’t get married but many of them got into long term relationships, committed relationships and then there was a new generation of Hemings. So, the Hemings would always work in the house, the Hemings people, and then all the other enslaved people would be doing agriculture-type stuff. 

So, the Hemings girls and women were dressed differently from other enslaved Monticello women and Thomas Jefferson was really into fashion and clothes, he was also into archaeology– or not archaeology, architecture. He really was into aesthetics of things. 

He bought Irish linen, muslin and calico fabrics for the Hemings girls and women’s outfits. He wanted to make sure they were not all in the same pattern to avoid monotony in their outfits. He also purchased for them fitted cotton stockings, taking note of their sizes. 

Verses all other enslaved women at Monticello “received a uniform made of coarse brownish linen and baggy stockings of woven cloth.” 

I’m saying this just as a good example of Thomas Jefferson, who we’re just going to call Thomas J because that was the name of Macaulay Culkin’s character in My Girl and I prefer him to this guy. So, Thomas J was really into… If he was around today, I’m not sure if he would just have some really… You know, he’d have his smartwatch on, all these notifications every day, trying to bio-hack all the time, but he was really, really, really committed to writing down lists of everything he did and that everyone around him did, constantly. So, he’d write down all the outfits, all the fabric he bought and how many yards of the fabric there were, and which enslaved people were doing this job, this day, what was the weather like today? He just liked recording everything. So, a lot of this story, we know times and dates and figures because Thomas J was writing down everything. Again, I was like, is this a bullet journal vibe or would he have notion templates? He just wrote everything down and this is how we know, he wrote down the sizes of the Hemings women and girls to get them correctly fitting stockings because he wrote down that sort of detail. 

At one point, Elizabeth Hemings’s daughter Critta, she fell ill, and Thomas J paid to send her to a place called The Springs for medical care and her room and board were paid for by him, by Thomas J. Annette Gordon-Reed writes, “The everyday existence of the Hemings women and girls encouraged them to think of themselves as different from others who shared the same legal status.” Yet, they still share that same legal status of, they were permanently enslaved, and Thomas J could free them but did not. I think his thing was also, “I’m going to make these people so happy and content here, they’re not even going to want freedom,” he thought delusionally, to himself. 

So, Thomas J, I’m really trying to include him as little as possible in this story, but he does a lot of stuff. He kept changing jobs, so I need to keep you up to date with what he’s doing. So, actually, we’re up to 1779 which is, like, in the middle of the American Revolution, a big important thing that a lot of people were involved with but not the Hemings because they were at Monticello just doing their jobs. Thomas J was doing his job which was being governor of Virginia. He had been offered some other jobs, but he wanted to stay at least in the state of Virginia, because his wife, remember, Martha 2, was perpetually pregnant. If you’re keeping a Vulgar History Season Seven bingo card, lack of birth control and women having more children than their bodies were prepared to do, mark that square off, because Martha 2 was perpetually… she pregnant all the time. Every time she had a baby she almost died. During their 10 years of marriage, she gave birth to six children, two of whom survived infancy and childhood, who were the daughters, the aforementioned Martha 3 and then another daughter whose name is sometimes Maria and sometimes Mary and sometimes Polly and that’s why I wrote her in my notes and MMP, Maria Mary Polly. So, those were the two children who survived. But she was constantly pregnant, really not thriving in a pregnant state, almost dying every time she gave birth. Thomas J was like, “I want to be close to her,” so that’s why he wanted to stay in Virginia and do this job. 

1782, Martha 2 gave birth yet again to another daughter called Lucy. It was a rough birth and she never recovered from the experience, Martha 2 died a few weeks later. While she was dying, this is where the book by Annette Gordon-Reed is so important and won the Pulitzer Prize because she’s looking at what the letters were of the people, the white, slave-owning people who were there were saying was going on versus what Hemings family oral tradition had said was going on. So, I’m going to emphasize the Hemings stuff because she was sick, she was constantly sick. 

So, the Hemings women and girls, throughout all of this 10-year period, would have been tending to her as her helpers, her nurses, they probably would have been there as she gave birth, as she was not doing okay afterwards. They were at her bedside during her final days and hours. Thomas J, also there. Allegedly, as she was dying, Martha 2 made Thomas J promise he would never remarry and this was because she didn’t want her daughters to have stepmothers because if you’ll recall, in the litany of people called Martha and Elizabeth, Martha 2, her mother Martha 1 had died, and then her father married two more times and just, that chaos of all of it… I think Martha 2 didn’t want her daughters to have to go through that situation, she had not enjoyed seeing her father marry and remarry again. So, Thomas J promised he would not remarry again. Martha 2 also, as she was dying, singled out her youngest half-sister, Sally, who was at this point 8 or 9 years old, a handbell as a memento. This might have been the bell that Martha 2 would ring when she needed Sally to come and help her but it’s interesting that she singled her out and also interesting that Sally was probably there, or at least Hemingses were there to tell her that Thomas J had promised he would never marry again. 

Thomas J, inconsolable at the loss of his wife. “He locked himself up in his rooms for weeks in grief.” Whenever he was going through a really hard time, he also suffered from migraines and health problems. So, not doing okay, Thomas J, which is why when he was offered a job– So, before, he hadn’t taken jobs that would take him very far away from his wife Martha 2 because she was going through pregnancy issues but now he was offered a job to go to Paris and he was like, “I need a fresh start, I need to get out of here.” He was having, like, suicidal thoughts, he was struggling in a situation, he wanted a fresh start. So, the job in Paris was to participate in peace negotiations with Great Britain because we’re in 1782, so toward the end of the American Revolution era. So, you know, peace negotiations because the American Revolution, to recap, was American patriot people versus the British people, so the peace talks were going to try to wrap up the American Revolution, I presume. 

So, he arranged for his older daughter, Martha 3, to come to him to Paris where she would go to boarding school. He sent his two younger daughters, MMP and Lucy, who had just been born, to go stay with Martha 2’s white sister, Elizabeth, I want to say, 3? Elizabeth 2. Yeah, Elizabeth 2 is the sister. Anyway, so siblings-wise, we have the now-dead Martha 2, she had a sister, Elizabeth 2, who was still alive and is a white person slave owner, and then most of the Hemings except for the oldest ones are also half-siblings to Elizabeth 2 and Martha 2. We only have one Martha left in the story, Martha 3, but I’m going to keep calling her Martha 3 just so you remember. 

Anyway, so MMP and Lucy, the youngest Jefferson kids went to live with Elizabeth 2, their aunt. Their other aunt, their 9-year-old half-aunt, mixed-race Sally Hemings went with them as the nurse and helper. This is the thing where enslaved girls up until age 10, 11, 12, they would often be a helper to a much younger child. So, no other Hemingses went there with her, most of them stayed at Monticello while this was all happening, some went to a few other places, and her older brother James went with Thomas J to Paris because he was being trained to be a chef and he was going to go train with some young chefs in Paris. 

So, they were there for maybe a year-ish and then the youngest Jefferson daughter, Lucy, who was about 2 years old, she died of whooping cough. Elizabeth 2’s daughter, also called Lucy, died of the same thing at around the same time. So, Sally Hemings who is 10 years old-ish, who had been companion to all these little girls, she’s just seeing all this happening, she’s also, Sally Hemings, half-sister of Elizabeth 2 so what was her relationship to everybody? Unclear. But she’s also, Sally, away from her extended Hemings family. So, Thomas J, this was devastating to him, and he wanted to have surviving daughter MMP with him in Paris as well. He was at this point appointed to a new job also in Paris. 

So, you know there’s a show called Franklin that stars Michael Douglas as Benjamin Franklin, it takes place in Paris, I think it’s on Apple TV+. I haven’t watched it myself yet, but I do understand that in, I think, episode 3, the Chevalière d’Éon appears in what sounds like a really cool way. Anyway, that show is about Benjamin Franklin in Paris. He decided to leave, and Thomas J appointed to succeed, is the new American minister to France. So, knowing he was going to be in France for longer he was like, “Right, send my other surviving daughter, MMP, to live with me in Paris, tout de suite.” But Elizabeth 2’s family were really close to MMP. She had been with them for two years at this time. She was a little girl and Elizabeth 2 had come to love her as parents, they just kind of avoided his letters, didn’t really answer his letters, they kept coming up with excuses why she couldn’t go. Ultimately, it took two years before, finally, Thomas J was able to get MMP to be arranged to be sent to Paris. 

So, the plan all along was for her, she was a little girl, there had to be a man travelling with her for safety and security and then also a nurse, like, lady’s maid/helper who would be one of the enslaved people from Elizabeth 2’s house. So, they intended it to be this 27-year-old woman called Isabel Hern but just when they, after two years of arrangements, they figured out, MMP was going to Paris, Isabel Hern was pregnant and so unable to travel. So it was that 14-year-old Sally Hemings was appointed in her place to go along with MMP to Paris. 

So, picture 14-year-old Sally Hemings, very little travel experience other than going back and forth between Monticello and Elizabeth 2’s house, just very Virginia-based, going from home to home. Later in her life, others remembered that she would often talk about her trip to Paris, this was a defining thing for her, this was huge, this was an amazing experience that she was often talking about throughout her whole life. So, she went with MMP. Five weeks at sea, the length of time things took to travel places, five weeks at sea and she arrived in London. So, she and MMP went to visit some friends, some Jefferson family friends in London, including Abigail Adams. 

There’s a podcast that… Let me just get the name of it, Abigail Adams, not a person I’m going to be talking about in this season but there is a podcast called Revolutionary Women that was created and hosted by two members of the Tits Out Brigade, and they have done an episode about Abigail Adams so you can learn more about her there. She’s not a tits-out type person but interesting, well-worth learning about. 

So, Abigail Adams was in London at the time. Her husband John Adams was the first American ambassador to Great Britain which I guess, that’s where Sally and MMP went to stay. So, Abigail Adams bought new clothes for MMP and Sally because they were going on to France and in France, you had to keep up appearances basically, poorly-dressed servants reflected badly on their employers and there’s some question about should Sally go to France with MMP, or should she return to America? Her job had been to watch MMP during the boat journey, but they can’t send Sally back by herself so eventually, it was decided by Thomas J that she should come to Paris with MMP to help out.

So, London. This was 1787. It was a huge city, still is, but I mean, Sally was coming from these plantation homes in Virginia, this would be like nothing she’d ever seen before. She got these new outfits and stuff and also, she may not have known this yet, but slavery was illegal in France at this time so as soon as she got there, Sally would technically be a free person. Thomas J knew this rule. He knew that if you were an American or someone travelling with enslaved people, you had to declare that you had them with you and then you’d be subject to these fines of like, 6,000 livres. Thomas J who was, just so you know, always extremely bad with money, overspending constantly because he wanted to look much richer than he was, his whole plan was like a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” type vibe. He’s like, what is it? Don’t ask for permission, beg for forgiveness. He’s like, “I’m just going to not going to tell anyone that Sally, this 14-year-old girl, and her brother James,” who remember was there to learn about French cooking, he was like, “Well, if we don’t declare, maybe no one will notice, and I won’t have to pay this bill.” And he also was like, “I, Thomas J am not going to tell Sally and James because I don’t want them to know and hopefully no one will tell them, and they won’t find out that they can stay in France and be not enslaved anymore.” 

So, Paris, again 1787, this is described as “At the apex of its grandeur, a global centre of politics, culture, and the arts.” The city itself was home to over half a million people which is close to the entire population of Virginia at this time. Of these half a million people, about 1,000 of them were free, Black people. This is also, Paris, 1787, on the cusp of when the French Revolution was going to start and this whole season, this whole extended Season Seven Vulgar History experience, we’re all building up to understanding how the French Revolution happened and how it affected Marie Antoinette. And the French Revolution didn’t just happen, there were a lot of smaller revolutions or protests and stuff building up. So, this was happening, the energy was just electrifying when they got there. 

It was an exciting time to be there, and Sally was just 14 years old and taking it all in. Her brother James was also there to welcome her. So, he was at this point, 22, she was 14, and they hadn’t seen each other in three years. The Hemingses were all close to each other, it was a really strong family unit, but this wasn’t her sibling closest in age to her or anything. Anyway, it was probably so exciting for them to see each other, she could give them all the latest news about what was happening in Virginia, he was probably happy to speak English to somebody because most of the other servants employed by Thomas J would have been French-speaking. Sally was moved into Thomas J’s residence, the Hôtel de Langeac. MMP was sent to the same boarding school that Martha 3 was already attending. It could have been an option for Sally to go with them as their lady’s maid, but I think Annette Gordon-Reed talks about all the reasons why that probably didn’t happen and part of that was probably because it might bring attention to the fact that Thomas J had brought enslaved people to France, and he just didn’t want anyone to know about that. 

Anyway, one of the things that Thomas J had said in his instructions for sending MMP over to be with him was he wanted whoever came with her to be inoculated against smallpox and then because of all the mix-up and who is going to go and when, Sally had not been inoculated against smallpox. Thomas J, big believer in inoculation. You can go all the way back in this podcast, I have a whole episode about Dr. Jenner and the smallpox vaccine and how that kind of all developed. But Thomas J, a man of science, was really into it all. So, she was sent to see the Suttons. So, there was Doctor Sutton and then he had six sons and that’s why it’s the Suttons. So, it’s this family of male, English doctors who just went around inoculating people in Europe, so they’d been invited to members of the nobility, heads of state, they administered inoculation to King Louis XV who did die of smallpox but that’s just because they got there too late. The total cost of this treatment was the equivalent today of about $1,000 which was paid by Thomas J and included housing and food at the Sutton’s inoculation house in the outskirts of the city where Sally stayed for the mandatory 40-day quarantine period. 

So again, just picturing this 14-year-old girl who, not worldly, had really limited experience of any situation outside of being at Monticello with her family, she was just by herself in this place where most people spoke French. As was how inoculation worked at this point, she came down with a mild case of smallpox from the inoculation during which time she was monitored and treated. So, it would be like white servants serving her which adds to a surreality, to her, perhaps, of what this was like. The Suttons emphasized rest as an important thing so I don’t know how much rest she was used to getting in her regular life of being an enslaved child, she would go for walks for exercise for a set period of time each day. And she probably, at this point in this 40-day quarantine situation, is probably when she began learning French, it’s literal French immersion. Everyone around her is French, the Suttons were English but the servants that she would have been interacting with were French. She eventually was said to have learned the language well. After her treatment ended, she went back to Thomas J’s house, the Hôtel de Langeac. 

So, the place where he was staying was more expensive than what Thomas J could afford, but that is something you’ll see a lot in this story; it was more important to him that he look wealthy rather than avoid debt. So, this place, the Hôtel, would have been both Thomas J’s and Sally’s first experience of indoor bathrooms, there was a whole bathtub room, a whole floor of guest bedrooms. Monticello today is this glamorous museum, but it was an under-construction building site for Sally’s whole life, basically, to this point. And this was like an elegant, fancy, French manor place. So, we don’t know where Sally and her brother James lived specifically when they were there. “The Hôtel had adjacent servants’ quarters, there were also some rooms for servants on the mezzanine floor.” The thing about her coming there though is, like, recall, her job had been to escort MMP to Paris and now she wasn’t her lady’s maid so she kind of didn’t have a specifically defined job. So, she would have been at this point, kind of at loose ends, sort of a fifth wheel, which would give her time to sort of learn some French, experience her new surroundings in her own way, watch other people to learn what the French customs were for things. 

And so, how she was seen there I think was similar to how the Hemings were treated and seen back in Virginia as well, which is different from other enslaved people, different from other servants. So, in terms of people who saw her and how they saw the Jeffersons react to her, she would have been the lady’s maid to Martha 3 and MMP when they came for weekends or holidays or whatever, back to visit their dad. So, she would have met their friends and one of Martha 3’s French friends wrote a letter at one point saying, “Say hello to Mademoiselle Sally for me,” which, this is Martha 3’s, like, aristocratic French friend, who referred to Sally Hemings as Mademoiselle Sally. Members of the French upper class did not refer to servants with titles like “Mademoiselle,” so this indicates that Martha 3 herself seemed to treat Sally as something more than a normal servant to the point that her friends picked up on it and said, “Send her my best wishes,” and called her Mademoiselle. In another instance, in one of her letters, Martha 3 passed along Sally’s regards to one of her other friends. Remember, they’re really similar age, Martha 3 and Sally. 

Also, the house where they were, which was located on the Champs-Élysées was, you wouldn’t have had to go very far to see lots of cool stuff happening. There are so many festivals, religious festivals, secular festivals, day-long festivals. Sally was not receiving a formal education but there were many things for her to see and learn just by living there, seeing what was happening in her own neighbourhood. Again, she didn’t have a specific job, but her tasks included sewing and mending, probably running errands, maybe helping her chef brother with ingredients and things, helping Martha 3 and MMP as needed, accompanying them on day trips like driving around Paris in a carriage with them, and also being a chambermaid for Thomas J. 

She was also (and I think this is because slavery was illegal in France) paid for her work for the first time so she had her own money and she, for the first time in her life could choose what to do with her money; she could buy clothing, go to museums with her brother, there were some affordable theatres she could have attended, she could give the money to charity, buy gifts for her family. This is from her wages, she wasn’t given additional spending money, though her brother James was, and perhaps this was meant for him to share with her. Thomas J spent his own money because this guy loves A) shopping and B) being in debt. He bought clothes for Sally as well, I think. Again, the whole thing about what your servants looked like reflected on how fancy you were. She was also at this point attending balls and dinners and things as Martha 3’s lady’s maid so she had to fit in so she’s getting these gorgeous outfits. 

It’s such an interesting chapter in her life, there was one anecdote I wanted to mention. At one point, there was a violin concert at Martha 3 and MMP’s school, the violin concert was being performed by a 9-year-old mixed-race boy named George Bridgetower. So, George Bridgetower was born in Poland to a white Polish mother and a black father from Barbados. He became the personal servant to an English nobleman and a few years after this concert, after performing in London, guess who was so moved by his talent he decided to oversee the musical education? Prinny, AKA, the husband of Caroline of Brunswick, AKA, the future George IV, AKA the Regent, AKA the guy who just keeps jump-scaring his way into episodes of this podcast. Something else to put on your bingo card, gratuitous Prinny appearance. 

Anyway, at the beginning of 1788, Martha 3 and MMP both contracted typhus, presumably from their school, so they were both sent to stay in Thomas J’s house and so that the other people in the house wouldn’t get sick, Sally was sent away for five weeks so she wouldn’t get infected. Again, she’s just having, not non-stop leisure time but just a really different experience than in Monticello. First of all, just being on her own a lot but also having time to herself to think and learn French and things. 

So, while in France, Thomas J became a regular companion of the Marquis de Lafayette who was a French hero of the American Revolutionary War, a character in Hamilton played by Daveed Diggs. They were doing political stuff together, the French Revolution was, you know, kind of beginning and Thomas J supported the French Revolution, so he allowed his Paris residence, the Hôtel to be used by Lafayette and other republics for meetings, French republicans. 

So, during this whole time in Paris, Sally and James learned about the fact that slavery was illegal in France, they couldn’t not learn about that because they were living in the world, they had contact with Black and white servants in the house they were living in, they would have met other servants in other households when they were going to events and things; they would have met people at the museum or the theatre. They knew that slavery was illegal and they presumably, probably, would have heard that other Black people in Paris were hoping that the oncoming revolution would present an opportunity for Black people to have a better life for themselves. 

In 1789, the Société des Amis des Noirs (which I think means the Society of Black Friends), engaged in a public struggle to include free, tax-paying Black people into the new world order in France; they wanted Black people to also have a seat at the table. “As part of their campaign to try and be included, they quoted words of the American Constitution from the American Revolution.” Thomas J was at the meetings of the national assembly where this was all happening, he didn’t comment upon it in writing. His vibe at this point was kind of like, “I’m not like other enslavers. I’m a cool enslaver/ Am I an enslaver? Look over there!” He wrote stuff about how he was anti-slavery but also maintained plantations and owned enslaved people. 

So also, the winds of change are coming through. In the winter of 1788/89, so like, the end of ‘88, beginning of ‘89, winter was one of the coldest ones in Europe in 300 years. We’re going to return to this, I think, other times throughout this season because this is a pretty crucial thing. It was so incredibly cold. Sally, James, Thomas J, people from Virginia were like, “Get me out of here. Paris is cool but this is a bit too cold pour moi.” In the midst of this impending collapse of French society and also the cold weather, Thomas J was like, “Let’s go back to Virginia. Let’s leave here.” And at the same time, 47-year-old Thomas J began having a sexual relationship with, by then, 16-year-old Sally, getting her pregnant. And we’re going to leave the story at that point because this is where, this is a pivotal turning point in the life of Sally Hemings so next week, what happens next?


So, what’s funny about how I just ended this episode is that I had naively thought that the Sally Hemings episode would be one episode length, I thought it would be about an hour to get through her story. I realized at that point, firstly, that I was about halfway through her story and it had been an hour or something but also, just as I said that final sentence, my neighbour, the people who I share a wall with, the wall that is next to where I record the podcast, started doing something that involved just, like, slamming, I don’t know, some sort of mallet directly at the wall. So, I was not able to record anymore but I was like, “Oh, but that’s actually the perfect place to stop this story,” and people, American history knowledgeable people, might know what happens next to this young, teenage, pregnant, enslaved girl in France and other people might not. So, this will be a bit of our cliffhanger. Next week, we’re going to get to part two of the story, of Sally Hemings. 

So, just you know, I want to check in with you all at the end to let you know what’s up, how you can keep up with me if you have thoughts or feedback about this podcast. And you know what? I do welcome all the thoughts and all of the feedback, even if it is in the form of like, you giving me constructive feedback in the form of a review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. I respect that you took the time to share your thoughts, and I prefer if you share your thoughts that are positive, but all of the comments are great. You know, you took some time out of your life to think about me and I appreciate that. 

So, I am on Instagram at the moment @VulgarHistoryPod where my DMs are open. Every time I do an episode, I put a post there so people can share their thoughts and say what they think about it. So again, @VulgarHistoryPod on Instagram. I’m also on Substack, if you’re there, where I’m doing a weekly newsletter. Every week, if you subscribe, which is free, to my Substack, Vulgar History à la Carte, every week in your email inbox, you’ll get a little essay that I’ve written about somebody from history. It’s not exactly the same stuff as what’s in the podcast, it’s different people but it’s just a way that if you like to read historical information rather than listening to it with your ears, you can subscribe to that there. At the moment, I’m talking about women of the Tudor era. The link to that is in the show notes but just go to if you want to follow me there. 

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We also have a lovely and wonderful brand partner, Common Era Jewellery. Common Era Jewellery is a small, woman-owned company that makes beautiful jewellery and also scrunchies and hairbows and things inspired by women from history as well as women from classical mythology. So, the pieces are made in New York City, everyone involved has healthcare and good wages and their designs include a lot of people we’ve talked about on the podcast which is part of why it was a no-brainer to team up with them. They have pendants and rings inspired by women we’ve talked about on the podcast like Boudica, Cleopatra, Agrippina, Anne Boleyn, and people we haven’t yet talked about on the podcast like Sappho is there. There are a lot of classical mythology people like Medusa, Aphrodite, and Hecate, and other people from I, Claudius like Agrippina is there, Livia is there. Their pieces are available in solid gold, heirloom objects, as well as in more affordable gold vermeil. Vulgar History listeners can get 15% off all items from Common Era by going to or using code ‘VULGAR’ at checkout. 

If you’re interested in Vulgar History merchandise, we have that available; we have T-shirts, stickers, pins. There’s nothing specifically tying into this, to series seven yet, that’s because I’m waiting to see what phrases or concepts really take off. Honestly, my favourite merch ideas are the ones that come up based on things that you, the listeners, share with me. So, if you have ideas for merch, let me know. You can see our existing merch, which is available at That is the best one for any Americans who are still listening to this episode at this point. If you’re outside the US, shipping is a bit better if you go to Redbubble so go to to get your gorgeous merch that has various silly in-jokes that you can wear. If someone else recognizes it, that’s how you know you found another Vulgar History listener, AKA a member of the Tits Out Brigade. And how exciting would that be, to meet someone else in person? 

I keep saying get in touch with me. You can do that on my Instagram DMs @VulgarHistoryPod, or also if you go to, there’s a little form where you can contact me and that’s where you can let me know your thoughts as well. 

Next week, we’re going to get into more, the exciting conclusion of the saga of Sally Hemings which has a lot of updates about how she is commemorated now in America. So, until next time, keep your pants on and your tits out. 

Vulgar History is hosted, written, and researched by Ann Foster, that’s me! The editor is Cristina Lumague. Theme music is by the Severn Duo. The Vulgar History show image is by Deborah Wong. Transcripts are written by Aveline Malek. Find transcripts of recent episodes at

Transcribed by Aveline Malek at


The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed

The Life of Sally Hemings (

Vulgar History: Black History podcast playlist on Spotify 

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