Madison Hemings Jefferson, was born at Monticello in 1805 (the generation of Abraham Lincoln, born in 1809) to Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson, taught by his father and mother to play the violin, trained in carpentry and building construction by his uncle John Hemings Nelson, born 1775 , and freed at age 21 years upon death of his father Thomas Jefferson.
He thereafter lived in Charlottesville with his mother (she died in year 1835 some nine years after the passing of his father on July 4, 1826) and brother Eston before moving to Ohio where he also acquired and operated a small farm or at least sufficient to raise food for his family. A matter of interesting fact is that Madison, and likely Eston, taught their offspring to love and play the violin suggesting that as their father had taught them, so did they teach their children who taught their children who taught their children, like my father Marion Lee, love of the same.
The brothers were both accomplished violinists enough to play professionally in both Virginia and Ohio. Their father Thomas Jefferson who was a violinist, for his own pleasure, apparently taught them to play and most likely their mother also. It is not likely they learned without possession of instruments.
The ability to play musical instruments, even by and among slaves, was always an asset except among the few people then and now who did not value talent.
Decision of the brothers to leave Virginia in 1836 was likely also made after Martha Jefferson Randolph died in 1836, leaving them without a friendly power at Monticello and likely suspicion of being trouble-makers encouraging slaves to flee.
We have tried to imagine what and why they chose to leave in 1836, and concluded there was no emotional reason for them to stay or guarantee they would retain their status as "free colored" in the State of Virginia.
All the relationships they knew and valued most were gone, ... and Monticello was in the hands of haughty Randolph heirs who likely forbid them to even visit there or intercede on behalf of relatives or friends like Isaac Jefferson still enslaved.
We believe that Madison and Eston were born into a generation that was perhaps called, like Lincoln and Douglass, ... to father a movement that would provide men and women to end chattel slavery. For us who are his descendents, the life he lived had a purpose beyond being Jefferson's son we can now perhaps understand, more than 200 years after his birth.
Madison married Mary (Polly) McCoy who was a officially free-born Negro in year 1811 via her White grandfather Stephen Hughes who manumitted her grandmother in that their children would be born free in the emerging ante-bellum Virginia, ...
... with complexities of life and living that even today most scholars deny it to have existed. Categorizations and classifications in Madison's rise up from slavery would have included daily used terms and descriptions such as: White, Negro, Colored, Mulatto, Indian, Black, Slave, Free, Servant, and Manumitted. Indeed, the Bell, Hemings, Hughes and McCoy offspring were only a few of the thousands official "free colored" and unregistered "colored" passing for White in Virginia.
In western Virginia, before the Civil War, when the huge state bordered Pennsylvania, ... Native American sexual interaction with any aforementioned classifications made the historic state even more ridiculous in causes of Christianity many claimed.
African-Americans in the region began the practice of referring to such persons of un-certain ancestry, especially the females, as "redbones."
Madison's movement to Ohio in 1836 was likely encouraged by knowledge of other people living therein including White Jefferson and Randolph unofficial relatives born of his generation, and would also be called upon to provide sons in the on-coming battles of "Armageddon" that would end chattel slavery in America.
Ohio bordered Virginia and soon after being admitted to the Union was a strong base in belief that it should be free of slavery. By the time Madison left Virginia in 1836, ... Virginia was the greatest oak tree of slavery on earth and threatened by states like Ohio. Indeed, Virginia's largest industry, supplanting tobacco by far, was the breeding and export of healthy and obedient slaves to the deep south king cotton states, ie. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and of course, Texas. Slave owners and their lawyers earned fortunes in selling slaves to such an extent that the Alexandria Auction locations bustled daily with eager buyers and slaves.
But, with the birth of Madison's sons and those others like him in states like ex-slave and mulatto infested Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, ... the great oak would be split apart into timber chopped down by "Honest Abe," and no longer a tree. We view Madison as having a purpose driven life in special purpose generation, perhaps not of his own design so much as part of a divine plan for men to bring forth chosen men of means to end the horrid institution of chattel slavery.
Here we throw up to the scholars and writers, especially novelists, ... why not? How can we claim to believe in God but non-involved in what we value such as life, liberty and pursuit of happiness? For us, we do not know for sure but believe Madison Hemings' life had a purpose beyond being a hewer of wood and bearer of water for better born and bred Americans.
Our hopes are that his story and others on this site will help strengthen the faith of Blacks and Whites who wonder about the mystery of it all that no one knows for sure, ... especially the lying preachers who tell poor and ignorant listeners about their own alleged conversations with the Almighty rather than learning and teaching inspirational stories up from slavery.
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