Aaron Burr, the third vice president of the U.S., is known for serving during President Thomas Jefferson’s first term. He is also known for mortally wounding Alexander Hamilton, former first secretary of the U.S. Treasury, in a duel. But interest in his personal life has grown ever since it was revealed that he had children of color.
John Pierre Burr, according to the Associated Press, has now been officially recognized as the son of Burr and Mary Eugenie Emmons, a servant in the Burr household from Kolkata, India.
Intrigued by her ancestry, a descendant of John Pierre Burr, Sherri Burr, who is a law professor at the University of New Mexico, conducted extensive research, including DNA tests.
The Washington Post reports that she concluded that John Pierre’s long-rumored parentage was legitimate. “According to her findings, Aaron Burr fathered two children, John Pierre and a girl, Louisa Charlotte, with a woman of color named Mary Emmons, who hailed from Kolkata, India, and worked as a servant in the Burrs’ home for several years,” it said.
AP adds: Sherri Burr’s work, which was recently recognized by the Aaron Burr Association, has been included in one published and one forthcoming book, and is referenced in Burr’s current exhibit at the African American Performing Arts Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The exhibit commemorates the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans on the Eastern Seaboard of what would become the United States.
John Pierre Burr lived in Philadelphia, where he was publicly a barber and privately a conductor on the Underground Railroad, working with Harriet Tubman to guide enslaved blacks to freedom.
“I was most concerned with getting John Pierre his due,” Sherri Burr said. “We’re celebrating the 400th year this year, and these broken links of paternity affected all these African families, and (John Pierre Burr) is part of that. I think it’s important, even if it’s only one example, to symbolically connect a parental link to someone who could not be recognized at the time of their birth.”
Earlier this month, Philadelphia’s Eden Cemetery put up a new headstone that honors John Pierre Burr’s accomplishments and recognizes him as the former vice president’s son.
“A few people didn’t want to go into it, because Aaron’s first wife, Theodosia, was still alive and dying of cancer” when the Newark, New Jersey-born Aaron Burr fathered John Pierre, Stuart Fisk Johnson, the president of the Aaron Burr Society, told the Washington Post. “But the embarrassment is not as important as it is to acknowledge and embrace actual living, robust, accomplished children.”