What has been your revolutionary settlement? Has the Revolution turned out the way you and your household expected? Are you optimistic for the future?
During the war, black slave families did whatever they could in order to help them overcome slavery. There where black men fighting on both sides go the war. Black people would side with the British who promised freedom, while others were patriots because they did not want anymore British rule. The Hemings, whose labor was owned by Thomas Jefferson, were supportive of the Patriots’ cause. During the war, the Hemings family had been moved around a bunch with Thomas Jefferson. After the war, Thomas Jefferson and his household, which includes the Hemings’ family, returned to their Monticello estate, in Virginia.
After the war, a few things began to change in the lives of the Hemings family. For one, Mary Hemings was sold by Thomas Jefferson to Colonel Thomas Bell. He bought her her freedom, and the two of them had several children together. Mary Hemings was the first of her family to gain her freedom (slate.com). Mary kept in touch with her children that she left at Monticello as well. Also one of her children who had stayed at Monticello, was learning new skills like ironworking and blacksmithing. He was in fact very talented with this work and he often worked on carriages. In a sense these, slaves of Thomas Jefferson were given the opportunity to gain new skills that made them more valuable. They also did not work nearly as hard as other slaves at the time.
Thomas Jefferson had become the leader of the republican party. He was first appointed minister to France. Later, he became vice president and finally president of the United States in 1801. The aftermath of the war was proving to be very favorable for Jefferson and his whole household. In terms of the two sides, the Hemings were supportive of the patriots and where therefore pleased with the surface outcome. It seems that their treatment did improve after the war.
However, the Hemings were a special case in terms of slaves after the war. They were not made to fight in the war, like some other slaves were. Many of the blacks who were fighting in the war were either bought to fight in place of their masters and then promised freedom, or they were already free. Once the war was over many black soldiers expected to receive their freedom, but rarely did that happen. The white slave owners were going everywhere, searching to get their slaves back (learnnc.org). There were only a few rare slaveowners that actually saw the hypocrisy in owning slaves after winning your own freedom from the British rule. For the most part the lives of the normal slaves did not change that much after the war. Of those that were actually fighting for the British because the British had promised them freedom after the war, many ended up moving to Britain. They did this to regain the property they had lost and to perhaps gain their freedom as well. Others were resettled in British colonies back in Africa. The Revolution did not turn out the way that they would have wanted it because few things actually changed for regular slaves. They still had to work under white men, and the white men did not see their own hypocrisy.
In the United States there was some hope for the future for the black slaves. An abolitionist movement was gaining support. During and after the war, emancipation was taking place in all the states north of, and including, New Jersey. This movement was pretty slow, though, and almost non-existent in the South. Even once slavery was abolished in the North, there was no promise that the former slaves could become citizens. There was actually some talk of sending former slaves back to Africa (aaihs.org). After the war, black slaves did have some hope, but their actions against slavery were not yet strong enough, nor did they have enough support to completely do away with slavey.
The Hemings, like any slave family would have supported this movement to end slavery, but because they were “privileged slaves” in the household of Thomas Jefferson, they did not feel the effects of slavery the same way as other slaves. Therefore they may not have been as active as others in the movement against slavery. In fact, their lives did seem to improve after the war, and especially since Thomas Jefferson was willing to set some of them free. The Hemings were pleased that the patriots did win the war and won their freedom, yet along with all other slaves, they wanted more to be done about slavery of African Americans in the newly free nation.
(accessed April 4, 2017)
(accessed April 4, 2017)