"I didn't know about Sally Hemings"
Despite hearing that she was a descendant of the Hemingses, Jill Sim did not realize that they were African American.
Theme: Racial Identity
Family: Hemings, Elizabeth
Residence (at time of interview): Covesville, VA
Jillian Sim, a writer and mother of two, was raised in the white world. Her grandmother, Ellen Love, an actress, told her many family stories heard from her mother, Anita Hemmings Love. She mentioned connections to Jefferson and an English sea captain, but never spoke of descent from enslaved people. Jill Sim learned of her African American ancestry only after her grandmother’s death in 1994. She published an account of her discovery in American Heritage, which tells the story of Anita Hemmings, who made headlines around the world in 1897 when it was revealed that she was passing for white at Vassar College.
Jill Sim believes, but cannot yet say with certainty, that she is descended from Elizabeth Hemings’s son Peter Hemings, a Monticello cook and brewer who worked as a tailor after he became free in 1827, purchased by a relative at the Monticello estate sale.
1 Nov. 2000, Charlottesville, VA
Interviewees: Jillian Sim, Allen Sim