A new novel raising Thomas Jefferson’s slave mistress to “Founding Mother” is now a Kindle e-book on Amazon, soon to be available in paperback. I have had the pleasure of reading drafts of this book, and it is an engaging novel based on detailed historical research.
Author N.M. Ledgin said publishing Sally of Monticello grew from “historians’ misunderstanding Sally Hemings.” They overlooked her mother Betty Hemings’s supervisory role at Monticello, Ledgin said, and Sally’s likely pressing advantages as half-sister to Jefferson’s late wife.
While in Paris employed at the American Ministry, she was a free woman who chose to return with Jefferson to bondage in Virginia. The one-quarter-black Sally was the only slave ever to room inside Monticello’s main house.
The book is based on Jefferson’s notes and letters, according to Ledgin, and tracks the 38-year relationship past family wars and scandal to Jefferson’s decline and bankruptcy. The author credits writer Annette Gordon-Reed with having unlocked the two centuries’ mystery surrounding the affair.
Buffalo Spirits author and journalist Elizabeth Black has called Sally of Monticello an “extraordinary accomplishment.”
While scholars are split on whether Thomas Jefferson fathered Sally Hemings’s children, Ledgin paints a compelling picture of a complex relationship. Read it and decide for yourself.
Ledgin also wrote the nonfiction Diagnosing Jefferson, an examination of the Founding Father’s eccentricities. The writer lectures on the third president for the University of Kansas.
More information about Sally of Monticello is available on Amazon.com and at the author’s website, normledgin.com.