James Hemings

Portrait by Artist to Come

1765 in Guinea, Cumberland County, Virginia
1801 in Baltimore, Maryland




James Hemings, brother of Sally Hemings, was a Monticello slave who, when Thomas Jefferson was in Paris, trained as a chef so that he could return to Monticello and train other slaves to cook in the French style. Jefferson freed him in 1796, after he had trained his brother, Peter, to master French cooking.

Sadly, the transition to freedom was not successful and James died a few year later in 1801. He was only 36 (or 37).

| Jefferson, Thomas


Although Jefferson obviously saw Monticello as an agricultural operation, he treated it more like an immense backdrop against which he played the role of statesman and participant in the republic of letters. It was a setting, the place where he also made entries into his various record books, read, played his violin (when he was younger), entertained guests when required, contemplated what to do about the plantation factories he built and operated for personal and commercial use, and planned his university. More than anything else, for Jefferson, Monticello was a place where he built things, most notably the house that was the centerpiece of his identity.

Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf
"Most Blessed of the Patriarchs" (2016)