18 user 1 critic

Sally Hemings: An American Scandal (2000)

Epic television miniseries exploring the complicated relationship of Thomas Jefferson and slave Sally Hemings, who conducted a 38 year love affair, spanning an ocean, ultimately producing children, grandchildren, and lots of controversy.




On Disc

at Amazon

3 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Lilies (TV Series 2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

Tough, sexy, funny and heartbreaking, Lillies details the lives of Iris, May and Ruby Moss - Catholic sisters coming of age in a dockland terraced house. Familial love sustains them, and ... See full summary »

Stars: Brian McCardie, Catherine Tyldesley, Kerrie Hayes
The Courage to Love (TV Movie 2000)
Drama | History | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

In 19th century New Orleans creole Henriette must choose between love and devotion to the church. Neither choice is going to be easy, as there is great opposition to her ideas of breaking traditions.

Director: Kari Skogland
Stars: Vanessa Williams, Gil Bellows, Karen Williams
Colour Blind (TV Mini-Series 1998)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A gritty period drama set in industrial Tyneside during World War I. Life for the McQueen family is turned upside down when daughter Bridget comes home with a black husband.

Stars: Joe Caffrey, Dearbhla Molloy, Ian Embleton
Biography | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  

One of the obsessive speculations in American history is whether Thomas Jefferson, in the years before he became president, had an affair with (and fathered a child with) his 15-year-old ... See full summary »

Director: James Ivory
Stars: Nick Nolte, Greta Scacchi, Gwyneth Paltrow
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

On the road to Lake Tahoe, a stressed out young executive meets a woman who forever changes his life. Shot in the spectacular Sierra Nevada Mountains, "The Last Place On Earth" is a funny, ... See full summary »

Director: James Slocum
Stars: Tisha Campbell-Martin, Dana Ashbrook, Mitchell Anderson
Ruby's Bucket of Blood (TV Movie 2001)
Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  

A Louisiana juke joint owner loses her star entertainer and hires a white singer to fill in.

Director: Peter Werner
Stars: Angela Bassett, Kevin Anderson, Brian Stokes Mitchell
Cole (2009)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

A small town youth finds fulfillment and romance in a big city's creative writing course, but feels obliged to sacrifice them when his sister's home life deteriorates in his absence.

Director: Carl Bessai
Stars: Richard de Klerk, Kandyse McClure, Sonja Bennett
A House Divided (TV Movie 2000)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

In the aftermath of the terrible Civil War which has devastated the South, Amanda America Dixon returns home to find she has become the sole heir to a vast cotton plantation. But the ... See full summary »

Director: John Kent Harrison
Stars: Sam Waterston, Jennifer Beals, LisaGay Hamilton
Boycott (TV Movie 2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Black Americans boycott the public buses during the 1950s civil rights movement.

Director: Clark Johnson
Stars: Jeffrey Wright, Terrence Howard, CCH Pounder


Cast overview, first billed only:
Thomas Mann Randolph (as Zeljko Ivanek)
Jessica Townsend ...
Henry Jackson (as Larry Gilliard Jr.)
Peter Bradbury ...
Chris Stafford ...


The story of the extraordinary, controversial thirty-eight-year relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his slave mistress, Sally Hemings. The teenage Sally begins her unexpected relationship with widower Thomas Jefferson in Paris where he is serving as the U.S. Ambassador to France. After escorting Jefferson's younger daughter on a trans-Atlantic journey to join him in Paris, Sally is soon exposed to a world quite unlike the one in which she has lived as an illiterate slave in Monticello. While Sally serves as a nanny of sorts, Jefferson provides her with an education, fine clothes and opportunities to experience cultural events. She and her brother, James, who works as Jefferson's chef and was also educated by him, delight in the fact that they are free in France-and are treated with respect. It is under these circumstances that Sally and Jefferson become acquainted with one another and begin an affair that will ultimately lead to scandal. Written by Echo Bridge Home Entertainment

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Bound by Slavery. Freed by Love. See more »


Unrated | See all certifications »





Release Date:

13 February 2000 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Monticello  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (DVD)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


A third child, female, born 1799, died in infancy. The fourth child was again named Harriet (historians refer to her as Harriet [II], 1801-c.1863). The fifth and sixth children, both boys, Madison (possibly named James Madison Hemings, 1805-1877), and Eston (possibly named Thomas Eston Hemings, but not referred to as such by historians, 1808-1856). See more »


[first lines]
Sally Hemings: I was born a slave, but destined to scandal.
See more »

Crazy Credits

ON SCREEN: Sally Hemings tended Thomas Jefferson's grave until her death in 1835. See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Surpisingly watchable
19 February 2000 | by (Arlington, Virginia, USA) – See all my reviews

It's a TV movie, a chick flick, and blatant historical revisionism--I thought I'd hate it, but for some reason I didn't. An African-American woman wrote the screenplay, which is a good thing, given the racial and political ramifications of this fictionalized account of the relationship between America's third president, Thomas Jefferson, and the slave woman, Sally Hemings, who almost certainly bore him one, and probably several, children. The screenwriter was candid enough to admit that the relationship was most likely not as romantic as she portrayed, but that otherwise she tried to stick to known historical facts. Of course, the fact is that we know very little about the real Sally Hemings, and the film's creators have taken this as license to portray a very modern, strong-willed and beautiful heroine (beauty, for better or worse, is important for the star of a historical romance--and I must admit Carmen Ejogo succeeded in capturing my attention) who hardly seems to be a slave at all. She is recast as a latter-day Esther, the Biblical slave woman who became queen of Persia and used her position to save her people. But even the fictional Hemings cannot save her people--although she does help many escape to freedom. And both the fictional and real Thomas Jeffersons, despite having penned the words "all men are created equal" and claiming that slavery was an abomination before God, never took action to bring about the end of the institution of slavery. Indeed, Jefferson was a complicated and puzzling figure. A virtual Renaissance man with big, beautiful dreams for the future of humankind, he was also a hypocrite and a racist, and was frequently ineffectual in both his politics as well as his own personal finances. The last third of the movie chronicles his decline into bankruptcy, and it becomes a gothic tale of decadence, with poor Sally doing all she can to fend for herself and her children while staying loyal to the master of the house. The decline and fall of Jefferson's dream world is the final test of Sally's womanly strength, and it is also a bittersweet presaging of the fall of the Old South. Of what little we do know of the real Hemings, it seems highly probable that she was three-quarters white, and that she was in fact the half-sister of Jefferson's late beloved wife. The lasting and profound image of this modest movie is of the "white slaves," people who we know for a fact did "pass" for whites once they gained their freedom. We condemn slavery because "all men are brothers"; how astounding it is to see that on the old plantations this was literally and blatantly true, with men like Jefferson holding their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles as "property'! I liked this movie better than the fancy Merchant-Ivory production, Jefferson in Paris. Sam Neill's waffling, self-contradicted, flakey Jefferson seems more historically accurate than Nick Nolte's mountainman, and even though much of the rest is pure fantasy, it is a fairly well-crafted, entertaining and positive rendering of disturbing and potentially controversial material.

21 of 21 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Contribute to This Page