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Films >> Sally Hemings: An American Scandal (2000) >>

0:00:00 Scandalous Sally
Sally (voiceover): I was born into slavery but destined for scandal.
0:03:08 Wise Betty
Sally: I don't want to leave you and Henry. I don't care about being free.
Betty: Don't you ever let me hear you say that. Being free is a precious gift. . . . I want you to have something none of us has ever had.
0:03:59 Slave love
Sally: I ain't never had nothing so beautiful in my whole life.
Henry: I ain't never lost nothing so beautiful in all mine. I love you, Sally.
0:05:33 Free in France
Sally: White folks listen to you?
James: Course they do. I'm head chef. . . . Sally, you're not a slave anymore. Here in France, you are a femme d'chambre, that's French for "maid."
0:07:04 Who is that?
Jefferson: James, who is that?
James: That's our Sally, sir.
Jefferson: Sally Hemings?
. . . .
Paine: Thomas, you really must do something about these slave endearments.
Jefferson: The girl's speech merely reflects Southern life, that is all.
Paine: Southern slave life.
0:10:11 A good mind too
Jefferson: My instincts tell me you have a good mind, worth mentoring.
. . . .
Jefferson: Please don't call me master anymore.
Sally: Why? Ain't you my master no more?
0:17:00 Not American
Jean: You are American?
Sally: I'm a slave.
Jean: Does that mean you are not American?
0:18:44 Questioning the master
Jefferson: Slavery is an abomination, a cruelty against human nature. There's no easy solution--- (cuts himself off)
Jefferson: I think that Mr. Paine can shed some light on this complicated solution.
Sally: Better than you can?
0:21:28 Paine's powerful words
Sally: "Weak men cannot see, and prejudiced men will not see, and we have it in our power to begin the world again." Mr. Paine, such wonderful, powerful words you wrote, sir.
0:22:19 Paine as panderer
Paine: If there were ever a reason to accept Washington's appointment and push an anti-slavery bill through Congress, dear boy, she is the best.
0:32:37 Talking love
Sally: I love you.
Jefferson: You must not.
Sally: You're frightening me.
Jefferson: I, too, am afraid. Sally, my heart and my head are wrestling with the consequences of this. You are too young and too vulnerable, and you are my – you are in my service.
0:34:02 Je suis enciente
Jefferson: Why are you out here on your own? Don't you know the streets are no longer safe? I've sent for Martha, Polly, and your brother James. We are leaving tomorrow.
Sally: je suis enciente
0:34:38 James in rage
James: With child! Have you lost your mind? How can you bring another slave, bastard into this world?
. . . .
Sally: I'm free now and I want my child to be free.
Jefferson: Sally, please come back with me.
Sally: Why should I?
Jefferson: I cannot go back to Monticello without you, tell me what I must do.
0:36:17 Departure
French Patriot (talking to Sally): And you Miss, not American, remember, you stand for something.
0:40:31 A mother's wrath
Sally's Mother: Sally I am very disappointed in you. You were supposed to stay over there and be free. James was gonna see after you, and now both of you are back here, and you with your belly as big as a house, by Master Tom!
Sally: Please mother, enough of this.
Sally's Mother: Please mother, enough of this? My, my, my, my, we do have such class now, don't we? Such style and sophistication. You let me tell you something, missy. You coming back here with your proper English and French clothes, don't make you nothin' but a fancy slave.
0:41:55 Reunion with Henry
Henry: Don't you worry now Sally, you gonna need a man to take care of you and that youngin' when it get here, and I can do that.
Sally: Well, its not like that Henry. The baby's already got a papa.
Henry: Who?
Sally: Well, daddy's already here.
Henry: No, no Sally, no.
0:42:51 A mother's counsel
Sally's Mother: You listen to me, you get that freedom for your baby in writing and you get it now. While you still got what Master Tom wants.
0:44:13 Surprise announcement
Jefferson: It had been my great hope to spend the remainder of my days in pursuits infinitely more pleasing than my occupations of the last 18 years. However, it seems I am to be compelled to return to the world of politics by our President. It is my duty, and I will serve.
0:46:56 What am I to you?
Sally: Tell me what I mean to you.
Jefferson: You are my own sweet Sally, and we should make the most of the time that we have.
0:47:40 Thomas Jefferson Hemings!
Sally's Mother: James, it's a boy!
James: What color is he?
Sally's Mother: White as snow.
0:48:35 Visiting the baby: Henry and the daughters
Martha: We have brought linen and layette. Polly very much wanted to see the newborn. As you are aware, Mr. Jefferson leaves for Washington tomorrow, we must all prepare for his departure.
0:50:50 Critta fixes herself
Critta: You know Sally, I done fixed myself. I look out there at all those black folks picking tobacco, don't none of them know who their dad is. And white women on every plantation be looking the other way when their mens go with us. We got to take it, and be quiet. And live with the shame, and the pain, and the knowing if we don't, we get sold or beat up. I didn't want another child growing up in this, so I took a branch to myself one day after Peter done me. Anyhow, I bled so bad, Suki said I can't never have no more children.
0:52:22 Teaching Henry
Sally: Look, you see that. That's the letter A. Look. A. A Midsummer Night's Dream. B is for Bottom and C is for candle. D is for Dark . . .
0:55:29 Trading letters
Sally: Dear Thomas, your absence has made the days seem longer than ever. Yet, I fill my time wisely with many activities in the big house and along Mulberry Road to distract me from my longings for . . .
Jefferson: Sally, where else has nature spread so rich a mantle under the eye but at Monticello? I wonder what majesty rides about the storms? How sublime to look down into the workhouse of nature. Oh Sally, I long to be with you on our little mountain.
1:00:00 Caught
Sally (to the slave owner): I warn you sir, I am the property of Thomas Jefferson.
1:01:05 Jefferson defends Sally
Jefferson: Untie my servants at once.
Slave owner: I'm gonna have to get $800 sir, or maybe we could settle, I admire your taste, sir.
Jefferson: How dare you! Now, get off my property now, or I will kill you with my bare hands.
1:01:38 This is the law
Sally: They would have killed her
Jefferson: This plantation is not a refuge for runaway slaves.
Sally: I cannot stand by and see another slave hunted like an animal
Jefferson: Now, listen to me Sally, this is the law, and it is common sense. And once more, you will do as I say.
1:03:55 The tell-tale quilts
Sally's Mother: Master Jefferson, this is the Heming's family quilt. This is my mother from Africa, my father, ‘ol Captain Hemings. My two children, Sally, Critta, their daddy, Master Wells. His daughter, Martha, your late wife, Sally's half-sister. This my boy, James, and Critta's boy, Jaime. There's Peter and Robert. And Sally and your two little ones, Tom and Edie.
1:05:04 James coming unglued
James: Mama, I can't stay here no more. If I do, I'm gonna kill one of these white folks, or I'll get us all hurt trying.
1:09:17 At the grave
Sally (Voice Over): When Martha's baby died, she was buried in the family cemetery on the hill. But when my Edie died, she, Jefferson's own blood daughter, was buried in the slave cemetery.
1:11:20 Henry makes a move
Henry (to Sally): Don't you remember how it felt when that white slave-owner bastard grabbed you? Just knowing he could take you whenever he wanted? Well, that's how it is for most of us.
1:14:55 You don't have to hurt me
Jefferson: Have you lost your mind?
Sally: Why, because I keep company with a carpenter?
Jefferson: I will not have another man touch you. You understand . . . You belong to me.
Sally: You don't have to hurt me. You own me.
1:17:08 Sally confronts Jefferson
Sally: Does that surprise you? That people can be strained so tight in slavery it makes them want to kill?
. . . .
Sally: Then what is your solution? Where do you stand on slavery?
Jefferson: I have fought against this!
Sally: Not enough.
Jefferson: I believe so strongly in the issue of slavery that I wrote specifically to the issue when I first drafted the declaration of independence. And southern delegates, men I respected, tore those passages to shreds, obliterating every reference to slavery. Not one idea survived. Not one.
Sally: Then you must fight again. . . . Be true to your word, Thomas. If you become president, you cannot come to my bed and go to your white Congress and do nothing about this plague on my people.
1:21:37 Inauguration
Sally (voice over): Our Daughter, Harriet Jefferson Hemings, was born in 1801. The same year Thomas became the President of the USA, and I became the most infamous woman of color in America.
1:37:23 Meeting Callender on the road
Sally: You are an abomination of mankind.
Callender: No, Madame, it is your lover who holds that dubious distinction. Your Mr Jefferson, made hoodwink his colleagues with his self righteous man of the people horse manure, but not me. He may bleat like a white lamb, but he ruts like a black ram.
1:40:19 James reappears
Callender: "Go, wretch, resign the presidential chair, disclose thy secret features, foul or fair." Oh, yes, good, yes indeed we shall print that one! But let me titillate you with a bit of accompanying text: "President Jefferson has been for years living in an habitual, loathsome relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings, and through this unholy union he has bred several mixed offspring." Now, I ask you, how do we present such a relationship to our wives? What do we say to our children? Is this slave fornicator truly the man we want to reelect for another four years? A man whose character is so despicable it is beneath contempt? Well then I say to you that the ruin of President Jefferson, his party, and indeed this very nation, lies in the hands of a slut as common as the pavement.
James: I am James Hemings, a free man, and you shall not defame my sister.
Callender: Indeed sir, witness my friends an example of our president's repulsive liaison, staggering before us blaring in the language of romance. Silence me sir, I think not, or do you even comprehend my word?
James: You shall pay for your actions, all of you! You and your kind shall be cursed by slavery. Cursed! I'll have you cursed by slavery! Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Callender: Remove him! Remove this pitiful creature!
James: …And if they refuse, behold, I will smite them all! Ignore my warning! I put a curse on you! Put a curse on you!
1:42:35 James's funeral
Sally: I remember in Paris, a man tipped his hat to me and my brother turned to me and he said, "You like that, don't you?" James spent his whole life hoping to be looked in the eye with respect, but all his skills, his education, his manners, even his freedom could not gain him this simple wish. So he died in despair, and I honor him for he did not live in vain and he showed us what we can and what we will be.
1:46:18 No beatings on this plantation
Sally: Mr. Lilly, you stop that! Mr. Jefferson does not allow beatings on this plantation.
Lilly: Back up girl, go on now.
Sally: I warn you, sir. (Lilly slaps Sally)
Lilly: Don't ever put your hands on me! Don't take any back talk from any of you uppity niggers.
Carr: You put up that whip, Mr. Lilly, I will run you through. Your work here is finished. You return to the house, and you collect your wages and get off the property.
1:47:53 Sally gets a whipping
Lilly: You think you're so damn superior, dontcha? Better than anybody. With your high-flutin' ways and your influence on the President? Race mixing is an aberration and you, with your indecent randy-ness, which disgraces southern honor, will be sold into Georgia like a field ant. Some folks want to see you dead. I am happy to oblige them.
1:48:53 Family council
Mr. Peter Carr: You see, Sally is the perfect example of white people's fears. She's smart, beautiful, and pale. A negress capable of seducing white men? And if everyone followed Uncle's example, by the end of the century there will be no more white people.
Mr. Randolph: That woman is dangerous.
1:54:01 Peter Carr hits on Sally
Mr. Carr: You know you could be arrested for harboring runaways?
Sally: What are you talking about?
Mr. Carr: I know of several incidents, now you take me seriously. If you thought what Lilly did to you was bad, imagine what the Sheriff would do. Brand you. Maim you. Cut off your hand. But I'm always here, aren't I? Take your side? And why? Because I keep dreaming that one day you'll realize that I'm the one, Sally. Me. (He kisses her, and Sally pushes him off.
Sally: You're no different from the rest of them.
Mr. Carr: From who? My uncle? You read the pages. You'll realize my uncle is no different from any other slave owner. But I am different. Now it's time you knew what my uncle thinks about you niggers, Sally. He doesn't care for you, not the way I do. (He kisses her again.)
1:55:13 Jefferson interrupts
Mr. Jefferson: What is going on here? (Sally walks away, leaving Carr and Jefferson in the room.) I believe you owe me an explanation.
Mr. Carr: And what do you mean?
Mr. Jefferson: I have eyes, I just saw you kissing Sally.
Mr. Carr: This is ridiculous. I'm her friend. Just try to make her feel at ease when you're gone! Take away the pain of the scandal.
Mr. Jefferson: Which requires you to kiss her, to touch her? Have you been intimate with her? Speak up damnit, if you've done something shameful…
Mr. Carr: Haven't you? Haven't you to the detriment of us all? Have you asked yourself if she might be attracted to me? I'm younger, stronger, here when she needs someone, when she's in danger, instead of you, who's up in Washington, dissembling and denying all claims to her.
Mr. Jefferson: (Throws Carr on the ground) I suggest you return to your own farm, and your own wife. I have treated you like a son. You are no longer welcome in this house! Now leave my sight.
1:56:43 Betty's words
Jefferson approaches Sally's room:
Betty: She doesn't want to speak to you.
Jefferson: What is this tone you have taken with me, Betty?
Betty: It is a mother's tone.
1:57:10 Sally reads Jefferson's Notes
Jefferson: I want a word with you, madam. He tells me that you want a younger man. After all there's been between us, and you want a younger man? Now Samuel's feeling cannot have progressed without some prompting on your part!
Sally: How dare you insinuate that I've been intimate with him! But then of course you believe your white nephew and not your black concubine, because you wrote this: "Whites are superior to blacks in reason and in beauty. In music, blacks are more gifted than whites, with accurate ears for tune, time and rhythm. In the imagination they are tasteless and dull. They secrete less by the kidneys and more by the glands which gives them a strong, disagreeable odor." Did it occur to you that slaves don't have your brass bathing tub? Or your perfumed oils? And this: "Among blacks there is no poetry. I have never yet heard a black utter a thought above plain narration." You disgust me!
Jefferson: You are taking my observations out of context!
Sally: Then here's one in context! "An amalgamation between whites and blacks produces a degradation to which no one can innocently consent."
Jefferson: Sally, please!
Sally: Are our children a degradation? Is my mother? Am I?
Jefferson: I was wrong!
Sally: Every time you say, "No Sally, I can't do a thing about slavery now, you wait ‘til I'm elected, wait ‘til I'm reelected, wait, wait! It was all lies! Your own law again miscegenation prevents us from marrying!
Jefferson: I wrote that 25 years ago, I was ignorant!
Sally: Buying a new territory twenty days ago. Are you going to admit that as a slave state and perpetuate the horror? Or are you going to sit on your hands and blame the southern constituents? Because this is what they think of slavery. (Sally reveals her scarred back to Jefferson).
Jefferson: God, Sally. Sally, what has happened to you?
Sally: I hate you. I hate what I've allowed you to turn me into.
Jefferson: Stop it. Stop it. You don't hate me. You love me. You love me the same way that I love you. I love you. Do as you please, but do not forget that you are my heart. I love you. God help me, I do. Sally, you must never, never leave me. And I will always love and honor you. Promise me.
Sally: I do.
2:03:29 Family celebration
Jefferson: Let it be noted that those are those among us who doubted that the sun would shine. There will be no doubting Thomases on Monticello. Now this flag was sent to us by an old and dear friend of Monticello, President James Madison. It marks the completion of the dome and a crown on our beloved home. But we will not rest here on our little mountain. The children of this rising generation shall be the leaders of the next and therefore the fires of education must burn forth from these hills throughout the world. So onward to our next task, the building of the University of Virginia. Now I want you all to follow me. I have some amazing surprises to show you. This is a skull fragment of the humongous mastodon. Now this here is the ceremonial headdress of the great Chief Blackcat. This was brought to me by Meriwether Lewis, a gift to the great white father.
2:11:55 Harriet in the dumps
Sally: There is no time for this, Harriet!
Harriet: I will not go down there and serve!
Sally: Is this about that boy?
Harriet: I don't care about that boy, I should be sitting at the table with everyone else!
Sally: The DuPonts are very important guests to Mr. Jefferson and to all of us, now will you kindly come downstairs and help me?
2:12:59 Dual intrigues
DuPont's relative: When do you think it would be proper to ask Mr. Jefferson about an investment in our company?
DuPont: Certainly not on the first night, it would not be proper, we would not be good guests.
Jefferson: When do you feel we should mention the investment to Mr. Dupont?
Randolph: The first night would not be proper, let us be good hosts.
2:14:12 When Harriet meets William
Harriet: Oh, excuse me, sir.
William: They told me looks run in the Randall family and dear Lord you give light of that. You are breathtaking, may I inquire your name?
Harriet: Harriet Randall
William: Well, I am William Alexander at your service, may I escort you to dinner?
Harriet: I am afraid that I've been excuse this evening as I'm recovering from a bit of a, uh, fever.
William: Perhaps you'll allow me to spend some time in your company tomorrow?
Harriet: That would be most agreeable, sir!
William: Tomorrow, then.
2:16:29 Harriet's dreams
Harriet: He's so wonderful, and so sweet, and he's already mentioned that he wants to take me to Philadelphia with him.
Mother: Does he know who you are?
Harriet: Mama, this is my chance to have the life I want!
Mother: What is it that you want?
Harriet: A home, a family, a chance in this world to be free . . . He is a DuPont, he is a man of means and I'm the daughter of the President, am I not deserving of some of the things that freedom brings?
Mother: You are his child Harriet, you will never be his daughter.
Harriet: Mother, please.
Mother: The way you will be treated in this world has already been decided by the color of your skin; you must never deny who you are even though who we are began as a crime and most of us would do anything to escape it.
2:18:40 The mistake
William: I've been spending my time quite nicely thanks to your daughter, she's quite wonderful.
Mr Randall: Which one, Virginia?
William: Harriet, I'm quite infatuated with her.
Mr Randall: Harriet . . . I don't have a daughter Harriet.
William: Of course you do sir, it's the one I met at our arrival party.
Randall: The one wearing the lilac dress?
William: I'm afraid I'm falling in love with her, she knows French, poetry, music . . . she's divine.
Randall: That's Harriet Hemings! She's one of our slaves, you imbecile!
William: But she looks . . .
Randall: Surely you noticed Monticello is crawling with slaves that look white.
2:21:02 Harriet crushed
William: White women do not work in the kitchen, how dare you pass yourself off as white!
Sally: Get off of him!
William: Get your foot off me, nigger.
Sally: You will never treat my children this way in my home, do you understand me?
Sally: Mr Bacon, will you escort this boy off the row and back to his family?
Bacon: Let's go, son.
2:23:00 Lesson learned?
Jefferson: You did well to defend your sister, young man.
Beverly: Thank you sir.
Jefferson: Harriet are you alright?
Harriet: Yes sir.
Jefferson: Sometimes we are hurt by what we do not say, because we fail to tell the truth.
Harriet: And what truth are you talking about papa?
2:23:15 Shaky times
Jefferson: I know you are worried, you are afraid I'm going to die and leave you alone and overwhelmed, but you are strong Sally, you are strong and I have come to depend on your strength. We shall sail our bark with hope in the hand and fear far in the wake, we shall be fine . . . I'm an old man now Sally but a younger one on horseback.
2:25:19 Deeper into debt
Jefferson: Oh Sally, the clocks?
Sally: They must be sold too, Thomas.
Sally: President James Madison authorized the purchase of Jefferson's collection of books to replace those destroyed when the British burned the national library in 1812, 8000 books. Books from around the world, books he'd owned from decades, books Thomas had taught me to read from, books I'd taught my children and other slaves with.
2:26:54 Martha brings the bad news
Martha: How much did the government pay for the books Papa?
Jefferson: That is my private affair Martha.
Martha: Because if it is not over 50,000 dollars then we shall be forced off this plantation.
Jefferson: Forced off? Nonsense. I still own all the equipment and livestock here . . .
Martha: Which is being sold.
Jefferson: And the poplar forest.
Martha: Which is mortgaged.
Martha: You have 152 slaves papa, that is your only valuable commerce.
Jefferson: No I will not sell my servants.
Martha: And if you sell 60 of them you will hold off the banks.
Jefferson: I will not abandon them!
Martha: We are bankrupt!
2:29:01 Telling the slaves
Jefferson: There was a time when I hoped for the emancipation of all of you because nothing is more certain than one day you will all know freedom, but I have failed you in that, and my Monticello dream has failed too because it is based on slavery, which I have always known in my heart is an inequity, but I did nothing because I was afraid in my heart and complacent , which has brought us all to this painful moment. We have all been overwhelmed by misfortune-our plantation no longer supports us. My credit is now on Monticello and all of you, and, and I'm afraid you will all be sold, and I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.
2:37:29 Son Tom returns
Tom: I've been married for twenty years, I have ten grandchildren.
Sally: Twenty years?
Tom: I want you to come home with me mama, I've come to ask Mr. Jefferson if we might . . .
Jefferson: Welcome to Monticello, sir.
Sally: Mr. Jefferson, this is . . .
Tom: Tom Woodson of Ohio.
Jefferson: Woodson. I have Woodson cousins in Greenbriar County, Virginia.
Jefferson: Do you have the time, sir?
Tom: Mr. President?
Jefferson: The time, do you have the time?
Jefferson: That is a handsome watch, now I happen to have a fob which belongs to a watch which I misplaced years ago, perhaps you could find some use for it.
Tom: Why, thank you. Mr. Jefferson.
2:42:59 Deathbed
Jefferson: Forgive me, I never told you enough but I've always loved you.
Sally: You are my own sweet Tom.
2:45:21 The last round: Sally and Martha
Martha: This is his will. He has been as generous as he could for a man of such debt. Our lives are complete pretenses, he has left nothing. No inheritances no bequeaths, only instructions regarding five slaves he has ordered to free. You are not mentioned in the will; however your name does appear on the slave inventory list, which I could overlook as I'm certain he would want your family together if at all possible. Did you think he would provide for you? He's not provided for me or his grandchildren. I have served my father with as much fidelity as I could have serve my God, and for the rest of my days I will preserve his legacy and his genius and I will protect him from . . . Look at me when I speak to you!
Sally: No, you look at me. What do you see? A family, I'm your aunt ,Martha, I am your mother's sister. We have the same blood. You can't deny me. And you can't sell me. Years before Thomas died he gave me this . . . I've been free since Paris. Your father once told me something that you said that slavery is wrong, that human beings should have the right to be where they want to. I've always wanted to be here Martha. If I took my freedom it would have meant I would have to leave Virginia, but I would never, I would never have left your father. Here we are, we are both displaced, where will you go?
Martha: I shall go to live with my Ellen and her family, and you?
Sally: I will stay here and be with my sons.
2:50:08 Sally at the tomb
Sally: I must entrust my story to my children now, so perhaps they will pass down the history of who they are and how they came to be.