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June 19, 2014

valentine for Sally Hemings

Sojourner Ahebee

About This Poem


“This poem was sparked after my completion of a history paper that touched on Thomas Jefferson and the way in which his historical legacy has been presented to the average American citizen for centuries. This poem rose from a place of great frustration and indignation for the sexual abuses put upon Sally Hemings, Jefferson’s slave. I wanted to understand Heming's history as a means of understanding all the historical tension that Black women in America still carry with them to this day. Through ‘valentine for Sally Hemings’ I wanted to question our often contradictory ideals of American liberty/freedom, and Thomas Jefferson’s political and personal life offered a plethora of contradiction waiting to be addressed.”

—Sojourner Ahebee


Sojourner Ahebee is one of this year’s National Student Poets. The National Student Poets program, presented by The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, is the country’s highest honor for youth poets. Ahebee attends Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, where she majors in Creative Writing. Born in Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, her hometown is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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Launched during National Poetry Month in 2006, Poem-a-Day features new and previously unpublished poems by contemporary poets on weekdays and classic poems on weekends.