I've been reading some different sources about the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings and some authors seem to emphasize that she was essentially a sex slave, while other authors make it seem like it was consensual on her part. Is there any solid evidence either way? Obviously she couldn't exactly say no, but has anything been recorded that says she didn't want to enter into the type of relationship she had with Jefferson?


The answer has to be no, because there was wasn't solid evidence that it happened at all, until recent genetic tests essentially proved it. There were rumors, and his own suspicious behavior, but that's all we had.

However, there is one thing that is pretty clear: no matter what her feelings were on the matter, as an enslaved person, Hemmings was in no position to say "no". Withholding consent was not an option for her. That by itself makes the relationship rape, in the same way that a grown person having sex with a minor or mentally handicapped person is automatically considered rape.

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    Also worth noting here that Sally Hemmigs was likely Jefferson's late wife's half sister (think about that one). – T.E.D. Mar 15 '17 at 20:55
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    Something worth noting was that while in France with Jefferson she was technically free, as under French law slavery was abolished. She could have left at any time and he could not stop her. The narrative I had always heard was they he promised to free any children they had if she returned with him to the USA. Something he kinda did. His kids either were freed, or ran away and were not pursued. – user2259716 Mar 21 '17 at 20:31
  • @user2259716 - I'd be very dubious about any story with that kind of detail on a historical event that most insisted didn't even happen until DNA tests proved otherwise. It sounds post-exculpatory to me. I understand the typical scenario for slaves taken into non-slave jurisdictions is that nobody bothered telling them they were "free" until back in slave territory, where they again had no rights. This exact issue is what the Dred Scott case was about (and the slave lost that case). – T.E.D. Mar 21 '17 at 21:31

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