Williamson’s most famous work to date centered around Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman owned by Thomas Jefferson with whom he had a 40-year relationship and parented at least six children. The series varied broadly in scope and focus.
Williamson began by spending the early 2010s using different mediums to explore Hemings’ life and inhabit her persona. The resulting oeuvre included silent performance pieces, small plays, interactive critical walking tours among historic landscapes, films, photographic collections, and more.
“I was really interested in the silent legacy of the woman who undoubtedly experienced slavery in a uniquely violent way,” Williamson told Studio International Magazine in a 2015 interview. Hemings wasn’t “a victim of whippings or rape in the strictest sense, but someone who — not unlike many women, then and now — had to leverage what very little power she had to secure survival, and an optimal quality of life for herself and her children.”
“She isn’t a radical or revolutionary figure compared to others, but so few people are,” continued Williamson. “And the privileging of radicality often overlooks the very importance of stories of creativity, compromise, survival, and decision-making, which make up so much of America’s history.”