Gilder Lehrman Book Breaks features the most exciting history scholars in America discussing their books with host William Roka live, followed by a Q&A with home audiences.
Join us online on Sunday, March 28 from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. ET (11: 00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. PT) with Catherine Kerrison, as she discusses her book "Jefferson’s Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America."
Thomas Jefferson had three daughters: Martha and Maria by his wife, Martha Wayles Jefferson, and Harriet by the enslaved woman Sally Hemings. Although the three daughters shared the same father, the similarities end there. Martha and Maria received a fine convent school education while they lived with their father during his diplomatic posting in Paris—a hothouse of intellectual ferment whose celebrated salonnières provided a model of female engagement in the worlds of literature, ideas, and even politics. Once they returned home, however, the sisters found their options limited by the laws and customs of the new republic.
Harriet Hemings followed a different path. She escaped slavery—apparently with the assistance of Jefferson himself. Leaving Monticello behind, she boarded a coach and set off for a decidedly uncertain future, passing as a freeborn White woman. Her disappearance into White society presents challenges to the historian who searched to uncover her historical tracks; but it also underscores our fundamental connectedness as a nation and people.
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