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Lucy Hemings, born 1777
Home Up Mary Hemings, born 1753 Martin Hemings, born 1755 Bett Hemings Brown, born 1759 Nancy Hemings, born 1761 Lucy Hemings, born 1777

Mary Lee Brady, Ph.D.

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Our view is that Lucy Hemings, born in 1777 when Betty was 42 years of age, and died in 1786 while Thomas Jefferson was the U.S. Ambassador to France, ... may have been fathered by Abram, father of Betty's earlier children before taken as John Wayle's concubine. 

Our reasoning is that with death of John Wayles in 1773 and the subsequent movement of Betty and Abram to Monticello during the next two years, ... a temporary flame may have been rekindled by him even though married to his new wife Doll.  Not wishing to hurt relationships with Doll, her daughter Mary's friend, ... the resulting pregnancy and birth of Lucy was kept a deep secret.  Speculation?  Of course, but why else would Betty Hemings or any woman, then or now, refuse to divulge the name of her child's father?  Fawn Brody notes the father was an unknown slave by whom she had a relationship after John Wayles died in 1773 and before her relationship with the White carpenter John Nelson in 1779.  

We should not forget that Betty Hemings was an attractive woman living on John Wayles's Guinea plantation as the wife of the slave carpenter Abram as reflected below in Jefferson's inventory taken in 1774 regarding the slaves inherited by wife Martha Wayles Jefferson after her father died in 1773.   The inventory shows a different picture than is reflected by author Fawn Brody's book and others suggesting Betty Hemings was moved into John Wayle's main residence at a different location.   Betty was taken from Abram by John Wayles who made her his concubine sometime after birth of Nancy Hemings in 1761, most likely when he needed a wet nurse in his home for his second wife, Miss Cocke, who bore four (4) daughters.  The third wife, Elizabeth Lomax only lived eleven months but likely demanded John Wayles remove Betty and her children to a distant location from him.

The fact that Betty did not disclose the name of father, is an indicator that she had a reason such as fact that Abram was slave husband to new wife Doll (born in 1757). Whatever the case may have been it is interesting speculation as to why Betty chose to keep secret the name of Lucy's father.  A reality about chattel slavery at its very best is that women, especially those such as Betty Hemings deemed attractive and comely biblically speaking, ... were unavoidably caught up in polygamous relationships with either them or the fathers generating offspring by more than a single living spouse.

Polygamy is old as human history attested to by great biblical literature about the patriarch Abram who travelled down from Syria into Africa, ... and who in addition to fathering Jacob via his wife Sarah also fathered Ismail by her hand-maiden. While the story itself is an exaggeration of human history in North Africa and Southwest Asia, it is an example of how ancient Hebrew religious thinkers rationalize the realities of polygamy which was obviously wide-spread among men of property who owned many slaves ie bonded servants, ... who almost without exception had a chosen heir and other offspring not chosen to be legitimate heirs and almost always adversaries to the "chosen one or ones by a chosen mother." 

African polygamy by contrast was rooted in the concept of "mother-right" wherein all inheritance flowed from the female lineage, not that of a father.  Thus, in ancient empires like Egypt wherein Abram sojourned to gain his fame and fortune, ... every Queen was necessarily born a royal princess and a man could only become Pharaoh by marriage to a royal princess as carrier of the blood line.  A man could be a commoner, but the wife of Pharaoh could never be common born.  Throughout much of Africa, even today, a kings and chieftains could father many children by many different women; but, choice of successors flow from the blood-line carried by sisters and nieces, not wives.    

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Last modified: 12/29/16