Petition to honor Sally Hemings on White House grounds

Petition to honor Sally Hemings on White House grounds

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Systemic racism is pervasive in the United States, and is embodied in the narrative of our nation's history. Sadly, American history, as recorded and taught, completely ignores important figures and  stories whose exclusion creates a distorted record of the foundations of this country and the group of men we refer to as "our founding fathers". 

Sally Hemings was a slave of Thomas Jefferson that was forced to became his mistress following the death of his wife Martha Jefferson. Ironically, Sally and Martha were half sisters, both daughters of John Wayles. Martha was white, and therefore able to live a life of freedom in society. Sally was a slave.  

When she was only 16, Sally became pregnant with Jefferson's child.  She was living with Jefferson in Paris at the time, and therefore was nominally free (thanks to French law), but she was considered a slave under American law. Sally was able to leverage her French freedom to protect her children from slavery; she refused to return to America with Jefferson until he agreed to provide her with "extraordinary privileges" and to ensure that her children would be freed from slavey. Sally Hemings thus forfeited her own freedom in order to provide a better life for her family. She actively took the freedom for her children by sacrificing her own well-being and quality of life. Sally bore a total of six children for Jefferson, but only four lived into adulthood. She dedicated the next 32 years to raising the four children and preparing them for their emancipation. The story of Sally Hemings deserves to be studied, remembered, and celebrated. Sally is an example of American parent sacrificing their lives to better the lives of their children. Her selfless act allowed for her children to live a free life. 

There is a fountain on the South Lawn of the White House that is currently named the South Fountain. Since the White House is located on a national park, the public can request to have the name of the fountain be changed. The goal of this petition is to change the name of the South Fountain to the Hemings Fountain in order to celebrate a woman that has been ignored for decades. The Hemings Fountain would be a symbol of a strong African American woman that fought to ensure a better life for her children. Although Sally Hemings and any other individual that is left out of our history because of the color of their skin deserves much more, this would be an effective start. The White House was built by and cared for by slaves, and the time for their recognition is long overdue.