Thomas Jefferson’s child concubine was also his dead wife’s sister and lookalike. Sally Hemings was the daughter of a slave woman and John Wayles, Thomas Jefferson’s father-in-law. That made her the biological half-sister of Jefferson’s wife, Martha Wayles Jefferson (1748 – 1782). Sally, who was nine when her half-sister died, bore a striking resemblance to the deceased Martha, and the resemblance only increased as she grew. Jefferson missed his dead wife, so when her lookalike sister was thirteen or fourteen, he began sleeping with raping her.
In short, Thomas Jefferson having sex with Sally Hemings would be an epic scandal if it had happened today, hitting just about every icky button there is. Pedophilia? Check. Incest? Check. Violence, coercion, and rape? Check, check, and check. Adding another layer to it all is that Jefferson fathered six children upon Sally, and kept them as slaves. He eventually got around to freeing his children, but he never freed his concubine: Sally Hemings was still Thomas Jefferson’s slave when he died in 1826.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading