Betty Brown

Dates Alive: 1759-post 1831

Family: Hemings-Elizabeth

Occupation: Enslaved domestic servant

In 1772, Elizabeth Hemings’s second daughter, Betty Brown, was the first of her family to come to Monticello, as the enslaved personal maid of Jefferson’s wife Martha. In the words of a member of Jefferson’s family, Betty Brown was “quite a personage on the mountain.” After almost sixty years of domestic work in the main house, she was one of the last of the Hemingses to live on the Monticello mountaintop, remaining there until the property was sold in 1831. 

Described as “light colored & decidedly good looking,” Betty Brown had seven children who lived to adulthood. Among these were  enslaved head gardener Wormley Hughes, enslaved Monticello butler Burwell Colbert, and enslaved nailmaker Brown Colbert. Her sons Edwin and Robert both became runaways after being given and sold away from Monticello. Her daughter Melinda Colbert Freeman married and lived in freedom in Washington, DC.  Betty Brown died in the early 1830s, probably before her daughter Mary Colbert and son Brown Colbert chose to seek freedom in the African colony of Liberia in 1833.


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