The topic of Sally Hemings relationship with Thomas Jefferson had been a source of controversy for generations. Although African American oral tradition has held that Hemings and Jefferson had children together, white decendants and supporters of the former President dismissed the claims as ludicrous. When DNA testing in 1998 revealed that Jefferson did in fact sire at least one (possible all seven) of Hemings children, those detractors flip flopped maintaining that because Hemings had fair skin and resembled Jefferson's wife (her half sister) then the relationship must have been a forbidden "romance" and not a slave-owner raping his slave.
Sally Hemings was the daughter of Elizabeth Hemings, a bi-racial slave, and John Wayles, a white lawyer and slave monger. Wayles was also the father of
Thomas Jefferson's wife, Martha. After Wayles died, Martha inherited his estate, including her sister. Sally served as Martha's personal maid and when Martha died she gave Sally a handbell to remember her by. The handbell is now on display at Monticello .
Soon after Martha's demise, Jefferson went to Paris and Sally was sent away to care for his daughters. Later his daugher Lucy died and Jefferson sent for her sister Mary. 14-year old Sally accompanied her to France. Most scholars believe that this is when the romantic child molestation began between the young teen and the man 30 years her senior. Hemings was aware that in France, she had the opportunity to gain her freedom and at first her declined to return to America. Jefferson was said to have offered her a "life of privilege" and freedom at age 21 if she would return and he could continue screwing her. She agreed and returned to Virginia in 1789. She was in the advanced stages of pregnancy. Rumors about the relationship circulated and in 1802 a disgruntled Jefferson supporter published a story about Sally Hemings .
Not much else is known about her life. She had seven children, one of which left Monticello and moved to D.C. where he passed for white. Jefferson never formally freed Hemings, after his death she went to live with her sons until her death.
Sources: Ency Brittanica, Africana.com,PBS.org