SEARCHING FOR THE LIFE OF HARRIET HEMINGS
Catherine Kerrison, PA Humanities Council, Commonwealth Speaker
Saturday, August 2, 2014, 1 p.m.
Location: Lycoming County Historical Society, 858 W. 4th Street, Williamsport
Co-Sponsored by the Lycoming County Genealogical Society & Lycoming County Historical Society
Sometime in 1822 Harriet Hemings (the second of Sally Hemings’ children) left Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, boarded a stagecoach to Philadelphia and all but disappeared. Fifty years later, her brother Madison Hemings talked of Harriet passing as white. Her identity as a fugitive slave was never discovered in her lifetime. This presentation follows her childhood, weighs her apparent choices and documents the detective work to locate a woman determined to disappear from the historical record. It uses images to imagine her life at Monticello and later in Philadelphia and Washington. This exploration of Jefferson’s families—both white and black—tells a larger story of gender, race and citizenship.
Catherine Kerrison teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in Colonial and Revolutionary America, American Women’s History, the History of Sexuality in America, Race and Gender at Monticello, and Historical Methodology at Villanova University. She has served as the Academic Director for Gender and Women’s Studies. Kerrison holds a PhD from The College of William and Mary.