Stories

The participants in the Getting Word project tell stories that show the skills, values, and powerful bonds of family that have been passed down over more than seven generations.

“After Years Of Silence”

We Couldn’t SayDown in the country, on a small mound Sat a small brick house, down from the town. The…
“After Years Of Silence”

Mary Kearney wrote a poem as a tribute to all descendants of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings.

We Couldn’t Say

Down in the country, on a small mound

Sat a small brick house, down from the town.

The birds sang songs that all birds knew,

Flying and chirping in the late spring hue.

The children all loved this place in the hills,

Working and playing and looking for thrills.

Some folks say this family was great;

There were only a few that showed their hate.

Some others that you thought would never be a friend

Named their children after this famous man’s kin.

But one winter day our father did show

A small brown album with relatives aglow.

“These are your ancestors,” he said to us.

We were shocked and amazed but warned not to make a fuss.

After years of silence, as the world can see,

This famous man was kin to me.

(published in Timeless Voices, a poetry anthology of the International Library of Poetry)

Themes: Hemings-Jefferson Relationship, Jefferson Descent

“My Father Made An Agreement”

Born and reared as free, not knowing that I was a slave, then suddenly, at the death of Jefferson, put…
“My Father Made An Agreement”

Peter Fossett relates his struggles to escape slavery and join his family in Ohio.

“Born and reared as free, not knowing that I was a slave, then suddenly, at the death of Jefferson, put upon an auction block and sold to strangers.  I then commenced an eventful life.  I was sold to Col. John R. Jones.  My father was freed by the Legislature of Virginia.  At the request of Mr. Jefferson, my father made an agreement with Mr. Jones that when he was able to raise the amount that Col. Jones paid for me he would give me back to my father, and he also promised to let me learn the blacksmith trade with my father as soon as I was old enough.  My father then made a bargain with two sons of Col. Jones–William Jones and James Lawrence Jones–to teach me.  They attended the University of Virginia….

Col. Jones, when he bought me, promised my father to let him have me when he could raise the money, but in 1833 he refused to let him have me on any conditions.  Mrs. Jones declared that she would sooner part with one of her own children….
 

My parents were here in Ohio and I wanted to be with them and be free, so I resolved to get free or die in the attempt.  I started the second time, was caught, handcuffed, and taken back and carried to Richmond and put in jail.  For the second time I was put up on the auction block and sold like a horse.  But friends from among my master’s best friends bought me in and sent me to my father in Cincinnati, and I am here to-day.” (Peter Fossett, New York World, 30 Jan. 1898)

 Excerpts:  Ebony, Nov. 1954.

Themes: Family, Slavery